Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Why Parents Need to Read to their Children

"One of the greatest gifts adults can give--to their offspring and to their society--is to read to children.” - Carl Sagan

I began my first career out of college as an elementary school teacher, and my masters degree focused on how children learn to read. Yet I didn't fully appreciate the importance of parents reading to their children until I was a parent myself and started reading to my daughter Alison when she was very young.

We had an evening ritual of snuggling up together in her bed to read her favorite books before she went to sleep. But we also read together in other places at different times of the day. Her favorite activity when we took long trips in the car was to go through the stack of books we'd packed. Thankfully, there were no portable DVD players, cell phones and other electronic devices back then to compete for her attention.
If you're a parent or grandparent, carving out time each day to read to your children is one of the best investments you can make in their future academic success. And you'll be amazed at the impact this sacred activity can have on your relationship as they get older. Here's why.
#1. You form a bond that lasts for a lifetime. The physical closeness and focused attention send a powerful message that you deeply care about your child. Her brain will form a permanent, positive association, connecting that time with you and the activity of reading. 
#2. You instill a love for books and reading. One of the greatest gifts you can ever give your children is to inspire them to become lifelong learners. 
#3. You'll help you child develop language skills and a terrific vocabulary, helping her enter school prepared and confident.
#4. It's fun! I can still hear Alison's delightful giggles when I would use different voices and accents for the various characters in the books we read.
I'm very concerned about the future of families where each person is hooked up to separate electronic devices instead of connecting with each other. To prevent this from happening in your home, I encourage you to make reading with your children a daily priority.
As Walt Disney once said, "There is more treasure in books than in all the pirates’ loot on Treasure Island. And best of all, you can enjoy these riches every day of your life." 
I'd love to know what you've experienced in your own family - as a child or as a parent - related to reading together. Please share your comments!


  1. We read to our children well into their teen years, switching who read with whom. Dr. Seuss was exchanged for The Sword in the Stone, Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Alex Rider novels, and other novels that our kids, now in college, still talk about today.

    My daughter, very Extraverted in the Jungian sense, still has a hard time sitting still to read silently--not enough action! But in high school we traded the read-alouds for both of us reading silently, side by side, as she delved into AP literature. Just this weekend, home from college, she asked if we could read together as she finished up the essays she needed to read before writing a paper. And my son handed over a few of his course books that he thought I'd like. So I'm deep into I, Che Guevera,, sharing the read vicariously.

    Reading aloud can really last a lifetime

  2. Reading is probably the BEST way to build vocabulary, too. What many people don't understand is the link between vocabulary and the ability to be logical and analytical - one of the major dimensions of intelligence. And once you get them hooked on reading, there's all that knowledge...

  3. I am also passionate about reading to your children and encourage a love for reading. It makes a difference for the rest of your life. All 3 my children have been library members since they were babies, and the oldest, 11 years now, have started reading books of 1000 pages+. Don't think I've every read such thick books. It definitely shows in his school results (being 1st in his grade). We all love books and despite being busy I try to read to the little one every day.

  4. Jane and Linky, thank you so much for sharing your experiences with your children. You're wonderful role models, and your children will benefit their entire lives from the actions you've taken.

    Denny, your insight about the impact of reading on the ability to reason is very important.

    All of your comments made me think about the importance of the QUALITY of the reading material, too. I appreciate your taking time to plant seeds that can help other parents.

  5. When my daughter was very young we had the bedtime ritual of me reading to her every night. The interesting thing was that she was slower than her classmates in wanting to learn to read, I think because she so enjoyed be read to.

    But once she learned, look out! She has been a voracious reader ever since which has led to her reading two grade levels above her current grade in middle school.

    I'm absolutely convinced that our nightly reading sessions led to her love of reading.

  6. Tom, I appreciate your sharing your experience with your daughter. And I'm sure your right about the nightly sessions being a KEY to her love of reading.

  7. Our daughter loves reading, she would come to us any time of day to read. She loves the closeness, because she can sit on our laps and have our full attention for that time- what children want. Now she even wants to read at crazy hours in the night.
    This has has encouraged her 1 year old brother to walk around the house with a book too.
    Good old reading for your kids is always a winner.

  8. Thanks for your comment, Evan. It affirms the importance and value of role modeling the behavior you want your children to emulate.

  9. Masud
    I really enjoyed this article. But for me as a parent to 3 lovely kids age ranges between 2 to 8 years old. I much more like them to stay at home rather than going outside and running around streets and meeting strangers that will cause dangers to them. Of course we admit that Tablets and smartphones can cause dangers too but is more far from getting abducted, raped and so on. I have introduced them to advance technology as this is a part of our society now and every kid as I believed should be entitled to know more about it since in this generation it is a big plus for kids now who knows technology and eventually use it for the future. All parent should do is know how to control and limit their playing time. And base on my research while struggling to limit my kids playing games on tablets and smartphones I have landed to a very helpful to all that limit what time they can use the tablet, control them and at the same time help them study mathematics. This Screenshot Ninja helps us parents to monitor them while we are busy working. So when their play time expires and they still want to play more they have to solve mathematics problem to gain more. Yeah its fantastic! As I have seen my daughters passionately solving it to gain more play time credits even my 3 year old daughter is asking me, "MOMMY what's the answer to 2+7?" and I let her count and then all I know is that my daughter can solve math now. :D
    Here's the wonderful app's link: http://bit.ly/screentimeninja


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