Reference: ADVANCE for Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists, April 4, 2011
Infants are auditory learners. When parents talk and read to them, babies learn about communication and how to interact with others. “Spending quality time and bonding with an infant are always important, no matter what the activity is,” said Hannah Chow, MD, assistant professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine. “But with reading the benefits increase.”
Reading to children at a young age encourages a passion for books and learning, improves vocabulary, stimulates creativity and imagination, and improves a child’s concentration which improves attention in school.
“Although reading books to children is wonderful when infants are small, it’s not so much what you read, but how you read it” said Dr. Chow. Parents can read the Wall Street Journal to their babies as long as they use voice inflection and interact with them while reading. “It’s a wonderful chance to just be together,” she said.
The reading material becomes more imporant as children age. Infants and toddlers enjoy staring at people, especially babies, so books should be colorful and simple, with lots of pictures.
“Most toddlers don’t want to sit still while an entire book is read, so reading part of the story lets them wander off and explore for a while and then return to the story a little later”, Dr. Chow said. The experience just needs to be purposeful and a part of their routine.
Children should be allowed to pick which book they want to read, she said. “If it’s the same one over and over again, just keep reading it. Kids learn from repetition.”
Parents should try to have books with them at all times as they are always available to children whenever there is down time, such as riding in a car or sitting in a waiting room.
The most important part of reading as an activity for young children is the quality time spent with parents, Dr. Chow said. “Parents should interact with their kids while reading, asking them questions about the words or pictures. It’s fascinating what kids are interested in and the amount of detail they can remember.”
Children mimic their parents’ behavior, she noted. “If reading is a priority to parents and they see them picking up a book instead of turning on the TV, they will most likely do it, too.”