The Intellectual Development Benefits of Reading to Your Child

The Intellectual Development Benefits of Reading to Your Child

R eading to your child can be one of the most rewarding activities both personally and intellectually that you share together. There are many benefits to reading together. Benefits include emotional closeness, vocabulary development, language cognition, voice recognition, image recognition and increased imagination.  The greatest of these benefits is the connection that comes from a shared interest and seeing the connection change and grow through the years.

Research is inconclusive on whether reading to a child in utero truly benefits later intellectual development. What reading to the child in utero helps as does anything the mother says when she is speaking, is the baby’s ability to identify the sound of its mother. Babies know their mother’s voices long before they are born. Father’s voices are recognized in a similar fashion if they are around during the pregnancy and speak. Reading is one way to help a parent formulate words when they are uncertain.

Furthering language development for newborns and babies can be found through reading. Some mothers are naturally quiet or reserved. Some feel silly just talking to a baby who lacks the capacity for verbal responses. But reading a story is something any parent can relate to.  More often than not, nightly rituals involve the telling of a story or reading a book to a child. As the child grows, they discover favorite stories that they never tire of listening to because they are familiar to them.

Children’s books are often comprised heavily of visual aids such as pictures that give the child a viewpoint on what is happening. Children enjoy the activity of pointing out the shapes and the pictures they recognize. Activities that involve identifying items increase their image recognition skills.

Toddlers who are developing speech patterns and verbal recognition often demand the same books over and over again. The simplest language with the pictures appeals to them and it is not just the familiarity, but also the repetitions of the same stories and rhymes can be very beneficial to their acquisition of language.

Reading to and with children also fosters an appreciation for the entertainment and educational values found in books. It increases vocabulary, fires their imagination and introduces new concepts as well as experiences. Novels such as Harry Potter, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh or even classical board books showing the tale of Cinderella inspire the imagination of the children who hear and see them.  Most children enjoy playing make-believe and pretend, reading with them increases this because it gives them new ideas for their pretend play. 

Infants can manipulate sturdy board books that just have pictures. A book of animals, for example, can allow an infant to broaden their world. Parents identify each animal and point them out, eventually as cognition increases, the child demonstrates that they too can point to animals and identify them.

Never try to force reading on a child, spend as much or as little a time as they will allow. Some toddlers just want to flip through the pages, pointing to the pictures. Some will make up their own stories and ‘read’ to the parent. These are positive signs demonstrating that they are relating the book to what they are hearing you read. They want to share the story they see in turn. Some have suggested reading the same book over and over again, while it may seem monotonous to the parent, remember that toddlers and small children are still developing a vocabulary and cognitive understanding of the world. The replay reading like any rote repetition increases their ability to absorb and apply the material.

It is unsurprising to discover that a five year old who is starting to read wants to read the same stories over and over because they recognize the words and there is a comfort level there. When they practice on new books and new words, their confidence must be built up.

Reading to and with children can increase their intellectual development in many ways. Letting them set the pace, respecting their choices and reminding yourself to enjoy the experience can lead to further experiences down the road. The emotional comfort is also a factor because it is pleasant for both parent and child to snuggle together to explore the pages of a book and whether the story is a journey to a brand new world or a trip to a familiar landscape, the rewards to be reaped are numerous.


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