In, “I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!” Dr. Seuss says it best: “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go!” Reading is essential for children for numerous reasons. Obviously, a child needs to be able to read to get by at school. However, reading goes much further than that, shaping your child's cognitive abilities, creativity, and even their independence.
We’ve listed out seven top reasons why you should encourage your child to read (and read a lot).
1. It’s essential for your child’s cognitive development.
Cognitive development is how children think, process things, and behave. The Encyclopedia of Children’s Health defines cognitive development as “the construction of thought processes, including remembering, problem solving, and decision-making, from childhood through adolescence to adulthood.” Essentially, reading helps your child with the building blocks of thinking skills they’ll need to navigate through life.
Reading and language skills begin to develop very early in children. The need to communicate starts developing right from the beginning and this development is reflected in a child’s cognitive development. Their behavior and how they think also translates into how they speak and listen. As a child starts listening to how their parent speaks, and starts processing what is read to them, they start putting sounds to words, and words to articulated thought.
For early learners, reading to your children introduces them to phonics. Phonics is where children start to connect the sounds of spoken language with written words. This is an essential process for a child to be able to listen and eventually communicate. This type of learning is often introduced to 5 and 6 year olds. Naturally, when you read to children, you start introducing new words that your child will first hear and then, eventually connect to their written form.
When reading to younger children, make sure you read slowly and with expression. Add particular emphasis on certain words so that your child can remember what it means more easily. As you read, you may also want to point to the words as you read them. If you want your child to be more involved, you can even have them turn the page.
If your child is more experienced with reading, you can take turns reading different paragraphs. You also can have your child read to you. Make sure that you ask questions as you go, ensuring that your child understands what you are reading to them.
2. Reading increases vocabulary.
Children need to learn vocabulary in order to be able to communicate effectively. This is why English curricula always pair vocabulary with grammar lessons.
The more a child reads, the more words they’ll be exposed to. Potentially, they’ll also be exposed to more definitions, if they look the words up. Even when read to, a child will start learning how to associate sounds with words and definitions, soon incorporating them into their own speech.
3. Increases their understanding about the world.
Books, articles and magazines offer children the opportunity to travel to faraway lands, befriend talking animals and learn different ways humans communicate and behave. Through reading, a child can become exposed to so many characters, personalities and cultures without even leaving the house.
Reading also exposes children to the different ways that people speak. It introduces nuance within speech, such as colloquialisms, slang, contracted forms of speech, questions and answers. This allows the space for your child to understand the various manners of expression within just one language.
4. Reading improves your child’s writing skills.
Reading is intrinsically linked to writing and storytelling. When your child reads more they improve their cognitive ability, their vocabulary and their comprehension. More exposure to all of these important skills lends itself to their writing skills. Namely, the skills introduced by reading and storytelling allows a child to be able to better express themselves, which often is then reflected in their writing.
After all, if a child is reading, they are technically reading someone’s writing. The more your child reads, the more they are exposed to the different ways authors tell stories. Reading stories gives a child more exposure to different styles of writing, which can help them develop their own unique writing style.
5. It allows for independence and identity.
Reading helps build independence in two ways. First, so much of everyone’s lives is informed and influenced by what is written - whether that’s on the tv, on signs, on email...writing is everywhere. To be able to read is to be able to communicate and formulate thought on one’s own. It helps a child excel in school work and teaches them how to communicate effectively with others. Reading will also prove important for a child’s future career.
For children, reading also gives them a special sense of independence. When a child knows how to read, they can do this activity by themselves. They can dive into stories, start learning and thinking on their own, and start crafting their own identity. Reading allows a child to learn to do things without asking for help. For example, when a child knows how to read, they can read how-to’s or instruction books.
There is a reason that there are so many beloved fandoms out there for childrens’ book series. A plethora of online quizzes let a child know what Hogwarts House they are in or what Hunger Games District they might represent. Many children take this personality sorting very seriously.
Just as reading increases empathy with the world around them, it also can introduce relatability and the beginnings of identity. A child may relate to a particular character and strive to be more like them. Alternatively, reading also introduces antagonists and villains, teaching children about morality.
6. Relationship building
Emilie Buchwald once said, “Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.” When you spend time reading to your child, you ultimately build a bond with them through the story.
Storytelling is two fold: it can be written (read) or said verbally. Therefore, younger children who are just learning how to read can start the phonics process and still bond over the story with the reader. You can learn more in this article we wrote about why storytelling is essential to children.
Plus, it’s a lovely excuse to spend some quality time together, snuggled up!
7. Increased creativity and inspiration.
The more a child reads the higher the chances that they might want to write. Reading a good story can be inspiring. Whether you’re rooting for the hero to win, or simply upset that the book has ended, reading a book can become a personal investment.
Additionally, reading encourages play. Often a child will read a story in a fantasy world, then “play out” their characters with friends. For instance, children acting out all of the Marvel Comics they read featuring beloved characters Batman and Superman. Furthering the stories they read through play is an example of inspired creativity.
The more one reads, the more they are exposed to different ideas and ways of conveying a story. For example, a child can become inspired from a particular story and write fan fiction. Perhaps they learn that they really like science fiction and would like to try their hand at crafting their own mystical universe.
Children often learn from examples, and with reading and writing, the possibilities of where a child’s creativity can go are really endless.
We hope you’ve enjoyed reading some of the reasons why reading is important for kids! If you’d like to give your child some more reading reading and writing practice, you can start them on a free trial (https://www.nightzookeeper.com/parents) to Nightzookeeper.com. The fun also doesn’t stop there! Your children can enjoy exploring our Adventure Book Series (https://www.nightzookeeper.com/shop/products/complete-book-series). They’ll love reading about Night Zookeeper Will and his adventures in the Night Zoo!