I’m always touched by parents’ devotion to reading to their children every day, no matter how busy their schedules or how tired they are. Some parents even read to their children on Zoom when they have to travel for work.
In this digital age, parents sense the importance of books and the crucial realms of learning they provide. The Commission on Reading validates parents’ dedication, citing adults reading aloud as the most important factor in children’s future academic success. Research shows that reading to children from the time they are infants till they are students in middle school is not only foundational to their vocabulary, attention span, and overall learning, but in their emotional development as well. Not as much attention has been given to the positive effects of reading aloud on the adults themselves and their relationships with children.
When adults read to children, they are often revisiting their own childhood world of books and stories, an activity that can bring back the feeling of being nourished. Reading out loud usually involves physical closeness and a willingness to be still and share feelings of intimacy.
Adults often find that reading to children allows them to let go of their stresses of the day and enter a realm outside of scheduled time. When we read to children, we step out of our tendencies to overthink and plan, and we see the world through child’s more in-the-moment perspective. Interesting new research shows that reading aloud also has a memory-enhancing effect on adults.
Books lead us through the fascinating evolution of children’s development. Baby books with their repetition and rhymes tune us to the complex and delightful process of learning language. Books for preschoolers get us involved in the emotional life of the characters, and their stories inspire interpretation and conversation. “Why do you think Jojo did that? What was she feeling? What will she do next?”
Chapter books invite us into worlds of discovery and the adventure of finding series of books we can enjoy together. Research shows that graphic novels present complex language and plots, coupled with stimulating pictures, that adults and children can interpret together. Since children’s reading ability lags behind their ability to understand until about eighth grade, hearing adults read provides more sophisticated intellectual and verbal stimulation.
Reading together also encourages empathy and love. Who hasn’t fallen in love with countless characters in books? Reading with children offers rich opportunities to talk about feelings and about the choices book protagonists make, providing life lessons without lecturing.
Our favorite children’s book characters live within us more vividly than any books we read as adults, and revisiting those books is like touching base with old friends and introducing them to our children.
Let’s keep exploring the world of books as we lead up to our Book Fair in March.