Few factors can influence your child’s life like a solid foundation of literacy skills. Reading to children and encouraging them to develop their literacy habits is one of the most important commitments a parent or a teacher can make because of the profound impact it can have on a kid’s mental health, academic abilities and thinking processes. In fact, with so many distractions and other forms of entertainment vying for people’s attention, the importance of reading with children has never been more evident.
Benefits of Reading for Young Kids
Although we often hear that reading is essential, many people don’t know specific reasons that kids need to read. Developing strong literacy skills helps prepare children not only for success in reading and writing but also in other academic fields. It also helps them become more able to interpret the world around them.
In an increasingly digital world, it’s crucial for us to keep our kids reading books for many reasons, including the following.
1. Increasing Empathy in Readers
Reading can increase a person’s empathy, helping them imagine others’ emotions and circumstances. Learning about different viewpoints or beliefs builds an understanding of culture and values outside of the reader’s experience. These experiences are integral in allowing children to imagine the lives and experiences of people from different places and time periods, enabling them to consider multiple perspectives or understand the greater impact of their actions.
2. Improving Literacy Skills and Performance in Various Subjects
It may seem evident that strong reading habits will help develop children’s language abilities. For instance, reading to kids at a young age makes them much more likely to recognize letters or write their name. These experiences can create a cycle of success in which students can build on these skills and continue moving forward as other children are just beginning to recognize their letters.
This process is one of the clearest indicators of reading being essential for young kids, giving earlier access to information and learning opportunities. What may be a less obvious advantage of reading for kids, however, is the effect positive reading experiences can have in other subjects.
To begin with, developing healthy reading habits opens avenues for learning about a variety of topics, such as science, history, social studies, and more. In much the same way early access to letter sounds and writing may provide a benefit in language, students with more background knowledge in these content areas will be able to make more connections and gain greater insight when they learn about new topics. They’ll also be capable of engaging in their learning paths, choosing to further their understanding of a topic beyond what other children around them do.
Reading opens children’s brains to different ways of processing information. In fact, research indicates that reading enhances students’ ability to perform in multiple subjects, even when the reading isn’t specifically tied to that subject, such as mathematics. This effect is likely because reading helps children learn to take in, interpret, comprehend, and store information, improving their ability to handle new concepts and situations as they arise. These comprehension abilities mold children into learners who are capable of considering complex situations and holding multiple pieces of information in their head simultaneously.
3. Enhancing Communication Skills
One of the common reasons parents and teachers promote developing reading habits is because it can help develop better communication skills in young language learners. As children read, they can expand their vocabulary through interacting with challenging words, and if they’ve selected the book themselves, they’re likely to try to understand the new words through context clues and phonics skills. This process helps children develop a wide vocabulary that they can use to more precisely articulate a thought or describe a situation. It also sharpens their vocabulary skills for the next challenging words they come across.
Reading can also help students develop better speaking or reading habits because they’re taking in well-formed sentences. As students interact with language and see a variety of sentence structures, they gain a better grasp of how words can be used more fluidly or in various arrangements, increasing their linguistic abilities.
4. Exercising and Expanding the Brain
Reading can expand a child’s brain ability in multiple ways. For example, exercising the brain through reading can help readers interact with various parts of their mind. While reading is widely known as a left-brain activity — processing language and organization — metaphors and non-linguistic representations occur in the right brain. Because of this multi-dimensional crossover, exercising the brain is very important to develop connections between various regions.
Another way reading can help exercise the brain is to present fictional scenarios that force the reader to question particular ideals. Readers can encounter fictional “what ifs,” which force them to prioritize values or concepts. Often, readers can be expected to make decisions between head and heart, love and money, or other internal conflicts. Such situations ask them to consider what’s important to them before they encounter the same questions in real conversations. That way, they’re more prepared to handle prioritizing these concepts when it’s essential in their lives.
5. Creating an Intrinsic Thirst for Knowledge
Reading is also crucial because it opens so many doors for new exploration. With nonfiction books, there’s a clear pathway for readers to not only learn about interesting topics but also ask questions that require further reading or study. This process creates a natural cycle of reading for children who have specific interests — such as a particular time period, favorite animal or sport — as they continually seek to find the answers to questions prompted through their reading.
Nonfiction books, however, are not the only way of reading stokes children’s desire to learn. Aside from the benefits of considering open-ended questions, fiction can also fuel a child’s ambition to learn by introducing new topics in the fictional world. When reading a historical fiction novel set in a particular time period, readers can come across intricacies that they never expected about that time and see how it affected the everyday lives of the people involved.
Similarly, though science fiction often creates futuristic versions of our current world, it can often play on current scientific trends based on current technology, meaning readers can question the application of the materials they see around them. Dystopian fiction often focuses on a policy or tendency in society and then extrapolates it out to its furthest reaches, asking readers to reconsider the world around them in new, interesting ways.
6. Providing Entertainment Value
With all the other benefits in play, it can be easy to forget that reading also provides a sense of entertainment for children. Developing an interest in reading at an early age can show children that reading is a valuable and endless source of entertainment. Getting kids hooked on reading at a young age is integral because they’ll become intrinsically motivated to continue their reading habits, which will naturally develop the other positive results that come with reading.
7. Reducing Stress
One of the most important and valuable aspects of reading is that it can help calm a reader who’s experiencing stress. In fact, reading can work better on these fronts than other typical stress relief methods — such as listening to music or drinking tea — that have also been shown to provide stress-relieving qualities. Helping students connect reading to a low-anxiety activity early in life can offer a powerful coping mechanism for dealing with stress later in life.
Why Kids Should Go to the Library
Reading itself is essential to a child’s success, but the role of libraries in child development should not be overlooked. With the technology and resources available in the world, some people question how libraries impact children today. These centers provide free resources, access to professionals, and a variety of other services that benefit children. Forming a close relationship with the local library at a young age teaches a student that these resources are available to them.
Here are several other important points to consider on why libraries are beneficial for children.
1. An Example Set by You
One of the key benefits of taking a child to the library is that you, as the parent, are establishing an example as a reader. By going to the library with your children when they’re young, you can make sure they develop a sense that reading is a natural thing for people to do. When children learn from an early age that reading is an essential part of life, they develop habits that make the decision to continue reading that much easier. Forming these habits early can be one of the most important factors in gaining early access to literacy skills.
2. Free Entertainment
One of the most overlooked values of the library is that it provides resources for free. This quality can be especially important during the summer months when keeping kids entertained with summer camps, family vacations, and other opportunities quickly eat into a family budget.
Libraries often offer events or get-togethers that offer educational value and cost no money. These free resources can even help save money on other types of entertainment. Taking a car full of kids to see a summer movie can get extremely expensive. Fortunately, many libraries offer films or other media for free or very little cost, providing a replacement activity at a fraction of the expense.
3. Freedom of Choice
Opening a child’s eyes to the innumerable reading options available can change the way they approach books. To begin with, it probably comes as little surprise that children are more likely to read when they’re able to select their own reading material. In addition, students often find similar books as they look for their preferred ones, meaning they’re exposed to more reading material than just the one book in front of them at that particular moment.
Educators have found significant improvements in motivation and student engagement when children are offered choice and can have some control in how they learn. In fact, researchers have found that student learning improves when options are provided, even if the options themselves have little relevancy in how a task is completed.
Providing students with options isn’t only about allowing them to choose a book on a topic they enjoy. It’s also teaching them that their voice and preferences matter and that they have many options in what they read and how they interact with the material. This developmental concept is a crucial one, teaching students that they play an integral role in forming their own education and seeking out materials or topics that interest them.
Choice provides students with a solid platform on which to establish their reading preferences and develop a sense of how they define themselves as learners and readers.
4. Librarians Who Help Them Find Books
One of the most classic reasons kids should go to the library is to receive help in finding materials. Though the freedom to choose their own books or other media is critical to developing consistent reading habits, having access to a knowledgeable professional who can help find materials on a variety of topics is key.
While particular websites can recommend books, the benefit of local libraries for kids is that interaction with a live person who can get to know the child better can often yield more positive results. A librarian can use personal preferences — specific likes and dislikes from a reader’s other selections — to make individualized recommendations. In some cases, librarians can even provide parents with resources on how to help kids read.
Librarians are terrific resources for children as they try to find more books about a particular topic. However, as the role of librarians continues to change, they act more as resource managers than book recommenders. Librarians can assist in using appropriate search tools or tracking down other research material. They often assist in using databases, magazines, newspapers, and other reading sources that might be of value for expanding knowledge on a topic.
A librarian will be on the lookout for materials for particular readers once they get to know these individuals, meaning reading material may be saved or recommended even without request, opening even more possibilities.
5. Development of a Relationship With the Library
Libraries are known for their collections of books, but contemporary libraries are much more than a warehouse for physical copies. Connecting children with the library early teaches them that they have access to valuable resources beyond traditional paper pages. Users depend on local libraries for a wide assortment of educational, entertainment, and communication needs. In addition to conventional books, most media centers allow users online access, providing critical job searching and connection abilities for many citizens.
Reading in Child Care
The importance of reading for kids has never been more apparent, and teaching kids to love reading is integral to any strong educational program. Reading early develops strong habits that will likely carry over to a lifetime of benefits.
Considering the benefits of libraries and how they can affect kids, access to these spaces should be a top priority when parents are selecting childcare options. Haymarket Children’s Academy recognizes the importance of libraries in early childhood education and the benefits of reading for kids, which is why we have a library on site. If you’re looking for childcare services in the Gainesville, Virginia area, contact Haymarket Children’s Academy to learn more about our belief in child literacy and development.