Ever since our first child outgrew her crib, my wife and I have spent time every night reading to her before bedtime. Now our three oldest kids all love this daily ritual. When I add up the time we’ve spent reading to our kids over the past five years, it’s a pretty substantial amount! Why do we do it? Here are several key benefits.
First, it encourages young children to read when they are older. When children realize that reading is fun, it provides a positive reinforcement that makes it more likely for them to read when they are teenagers and adults. There is a modeling aspect as well. When children see their parents read, both to them and for their own benefit, they think of reading as a normal adult behavior.
Secondly, it develops children intellectually. Many studies have shown that reading to toddlers and children increases their academic performance in a broad range of subjects. It also develops concentration, thinking, and language skills. Additionally, by selecting high quality books, we can instill moral principles such as honesty, hard work, and strong friendships.
Thirdly, children are able to share experiences through characters in books who live in different environments and periods of history. This exposes them to various cultures and places that are quite different from their daily activities. Books are better than movies in this area as well. Stories expand children’s’ imagination in a way that simply does not occur when they are watching television.
Fourthly, there is a huge benefit to having family rituals. All humans need security, and few things help a child feel secure more than regular rituals with their parents. Every night I look forward to having one of my kids on my lap with another at each elbow. This physical closeness and shared experience builds our relationship much more than if we just sent the kids to bed.
Fifthly, it’s fun. Everyone loves a good story. Sometimes I find myself as absorbed in the book as the kids. Impromptu yarns, legends, and fairy tales of every kind have been passed down from generation to generation. These traditions are often absent in today’s family, but entertainment doesn’t always have to be something on television or away from the house.