As Mayor De Blasio’s Pre-k initiative gets off the ground in New York City, the impact of early learning is becoming increasingly apparent. According to reading specialist Maryanne Wolf, “Learning to read begins the first time an infant is held and read a story.” She also adds that the more talking children hear and the more they are read to, the more words they experience and the more prepared they are for school learning. While many parents know that reading to their kids is important, they aren’t clued into its specific benefits. Here are eight important reasons to read to your child early on:
Expansion of world view. In books (and in conversations) children are exposed to new ideas—they visit far away places, see new things, feel new feelings, and go on cognitive and emotional adventures.
Object identification. Vision, perception, and language work together to connect an object with a word, and then children develop memories of what they’ve seen. Books increase their scopes of reference.
Everything has a name. It is easy for adults to forget that infants and toddlers don’t know a fork is called a fork, a tree is called a tree, and so on. When we talk to children we name their world and expand their universe of concepts. Books do an even better job of catapulting this process through image and story.
Connection between text and image. Beautiful images encourage focus, questioning, and the drive to know more; children begin to use pictures to prompt letter and word recognition, connections with characters, and sequencing skills.
The delight of literary language. The pairing of powerful images with evocative literary language helps to develop children’s minds. Growing up hearing older and/or more complex language allows children to develop an ever-expanding universe of words.
Phonological development. As children hear language they begin to identify different sounds, and learn to connect starting and ending sounds and make rhymes.
Book sense. Experience handling books teaches children the logic of how texts work physically, the direction in which the home language is read, and the rhythm of turning pages.
Letters make words and words make sentences. Children who are read to begin to understand the building blocks of the reading process. They recognize each letter as an object with a sound, each word as a small picture, and multiple words coming together as a sentence with meaning.
Beyond these eight important reasons, reading is just another way to bond with your child. So encourage more talk at home, in your kids’ classes, and in infant and toddler learning centers, so we can expand the minds of these early learners.
Author: Renee Bock
Renee Bock is a dedicated early childhood educator, who is currently the educational director at Explore+Discover, a social learning center in Manhattan. She has a master’s in early childhood education and more than a decade of experience in the field.