In a rapidly changing world with new technological advancements coming about each day, books can seem like an artifact of the past. But studies continue to show the substantial benefits of reading to children. In fact, experts recommend reading to your child at least once a day.
Despite formal education generally beginning at around age 5, roughly 80% of the brain is developed by the age of 3, per a study published by pediatrician Todd Twogood, MD, FAAP. This places emphasis on the first 3 years of life as crucial to a child’s success in regard to both education and socialization.
The US Department of Education states that children who are read to at least three times a week are nearly twice as likely to score in the top 25% in reading scores compared to those read to fewer than three times a week.
So when is the appropriate time to start practicing daily reading? The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends starting from the time your child is born. The benefits of reading to children stem from the interactive nature of the activity. This is what makes it such a preferable alternative to screen time, which is generally considered a one-sided engagement.
The presentation of speech, pictures, and words, paired with one-on-one interaction, create an optimal environment for concept association in developing minds. Genuine engagement from both parties will only increase the effectiveness of the activity.
Studies have proven that the brain, at any age, takes in information much more effectively when it is actively engaged in the material it is attempting to integrate. Have you ever read an entire page of text and felt like you retained none of it? That is likely because you were not engaged with the material, and you likely did not find it relevant to your own situation.
Relevancy is key, which is why it is said one should tailor pitches to their audience. The fact is, if the brain doesn’t see the immediate benefit of something, it is unlikely to engage. This is why the play element is so important in child learning. Bright colors, funny sounds, and genuine interest from a guiding voice make a child much more likely to pick up what it is you’re putting down, as it were.
The fundamental concepts of social functionality – such as language and mathematics – are essentially just sequences of more basic concepts, which are interconnected and applied in accordance with one another. In short, we work our way up to the big stuff by learning the small stuff, then putting together the pieces.
Having all the pieces at one’s disposal is a necessity, but failing to understand how the pieces apply to one another can render them all but irrelevant. This is much in the same way that a person can have a garage full of all the parts necessary to build a car, but still not be able to make it to work. This is because a garage full of parts isn’t going to get you down the road if you don’t understand how they fit together.
Routine engagement in reading and guided play with children expedites the process of understanding how the fundamental concepts of speech and language build upon one another. This can go a long way in preparing children not only for formal education, but also for basic socialization and interaction with their peers.
Our children occupy a great deal of our time. In the interest of the benefit of everyone involved, it pays to make sure the time spent with them is as beneficial as possible. So the next time your little one is seeking some engagement, rather than pulling out the iPad, consider reaching for some books. You may just learn a thing or two yourself!