As a mother, bedtime is a difficult time of day for me. I’d even go so far as to say it’s the absolute worst time of day for me. Everybody is exhausted, and the last thing I want to do is sit in their room and read a book to my kids! I want them to just go to sleep already so I can go have the alone time I so desperately need by the end of the day.
But did you know that reading to your children is one of those little things that can make a significant difference in their lives? Just five or ten minutes to read a chapter to them has far-reaching benefits that will last them forever. So even though your tv show is waiting to be watched, go ahead and take that ten minutes to read first—you won’t regret it!
Some of the benefits are immediate, and others you may not notice until much later, but all of them are totally worth the extra few minutes each day.
5 Good Reasons to Read Out Loud to Your Children
1. Increased attention span
In a world where are children are continually pulled into screens of all types and sizes, their attention spans are shrinking. If a child isn’t accustomed to having books read out loud, it might be difficult at first for them to pay attention. But the more they hear books read out loud and are forced to use their own imaginations to fill in the scenes, their attention spans and ability to focus will increase.
(Be sure that you are not allowing electronic devices to be used while you are reading to your kids.)
2. Larger vocabulary
Research has shown that reading stories out loud to children introduces them to a much larger vocabulary than just talking to them alone does (source). Children’s picture books tend to use words outside of the 5,000 most common English words three times as often as adult conversation does! The earlier a child is exposed to a word, the more likely they are to master it in their adult vocabulary, so beginning to read to them at a young age will increase their adult vocabularies considerably.
Reading to them above their own reading level is also recommended. Again, they will learn new words as you read to them from a chapter book when they are still learning to read picture books. I still read to my 5th and 8th graders fairly regularly and they love listening to books that they might not be prepared to read on their own at this point.
3. More success in school
Partly because of the larger vocabulary and the increased attention spans, reading out loud to children has been linked to better grades in school.
4. Development of empathy
This is a big one for me. I want to raise children who are kind and empathetic, and books provide a wonderful avenue for developing empathy. The children will have a unique look into the characters they are reading about—characters whose lives and situations are very different from their own. As they hear you read about these characters (and eventually begin to read about them on their own, too) they will begin to develop more understanding about why people make the choices they do or what it might be like to have a particular trial or disability.
Reading to them gives you as a parent the opportunity to discuss many of these things with them. Sometimes it’s a great teaching opportunity to discuss a particular character’s choice and what the consequences were for that character. The discussions I have had while reading to my children have been some of my best teaching moments as a mother.
To see a list of some of my favorite empathy teaching books, click here: Books that help children learn empathy
5. Improved relationship
Even though it seems like a small sacrifice, your relationship with your children will improve as you read to them. I’ve experienced this so many times that it makes me wonder why I ever resist reading to them!
Tonight when you’re feeling totally exhausted and you can’t wait to get the kids in bed, grit your teeth and pluck a good chapter book off of the shelf and devote just 5 minutes to reading out loud. Your kids will love it and I think you will, too.
To see some of my favorite read aloud books, click here:
Small Habit: Read out loud to your kids every night.
Big Difference: They will be more successful, more empathetic, and increase their attention spans. Plus, you’ll have a better relationship with them.
This post is part of my Small Habits That Will Make a Big Difference 30 day challenge. To see all of the posts in this series, click here. Or, join the challenge and receive a daily email with a new small habit that can affect your life in a big way.
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