I’ve been working from home for 21 weeks. This prolonged period of isolation has given me time to reflect on happier times in life: adventures and excitement in college, friendships forged in high school, and time spent reading with my mom as a child.

Those were the good days — Mom reading to me and my brother as we snuggled up in my parents’ king-size bed, piled high with pillows and blankets.

Though we were capable of reading titles like Gertrude Chandler Warner’s The Boxcar Children and Carolyn Keene’s Nancy Drew, we preferred to have Mom read them to us. We’d go to the local used bookstore weekly to find new titles and were excited to find the numbers missing from our collection.

Even when I’d outgrown picture books, I loved to have her read a few of my favorites like Miss Suzy by Miriam Young and Miss Twiggley’s Tree by Dorothea Warren Fox. Both of those titles are still on my bookshelf, weathered from years of love and held together with packing tape.

I’ve always appreciated the time my mom spent reading to me when I was a child, and I credit my career as a writer to her introducing me to literature at a young age. But what I thought was a fun evening activity actually has several life-changing benefits for children, and I now realize that our nightly ritual shaped me into the person I am today. 

Cognitive Benefits

Reading aloud to your children has some clear cognitive benefits. 

“Brain scans show that hearing stories strengthens the part of the brain associated with visual imagery, story comprehension, and word meaning,” Deborah Farmer Kris wrote in an article for PBS

Focus on the Family also provides several other benefits of reading, including:

  • Better writing and concentration skills
  • Improves the ability to process new information 
  • Helps one sift information and understand how unrelated facts can fit into a whole

Social and Emotional Benefits

Social-emotional learning (SEL) is a hot topic in the world of childhood development right now, and for good reason. Alexis Clark explains in an article for Understood.org that SEL is “the skillset we use to cope with feelings, set goals, make decisions, and get along with — and feel empathy for — others.” 

While there is a variety of curricula available for SEL, studies have shown that reading to your children at early ages can help with social, emotional, and character development. 

“When parents read and play with their children when their children are very young — we’re talking about birth to 3 years olds — it has really large impacts on their children’s behavior. … All families need to know when they read, when they play with their children, they’re helping them learn to control their own behavior,” Dr. Alan Mendelsohn, an associate professor of pediatrics at New York University School of Medicine, said to the New York Times

 

Life Benefits

Even if you are not a “reader” — someone who enjoys reading books — you read every day. From restaurant menus to street signs to social media posts, words are everywhere, and knowing how to read is essential. 

“Reading is one of the only entertainment mediums that is also an essential life skill,” Andrea Vinley Jewell wrote in an article for Focus on the Family.

While there is a variety of entertainment that can occupy your children, reading is one of the only ones that is an essential life skill. Next time you’re tempted to plop your kid down in front of the television or hand them a tablet with games and videos, remember that taking a few minutes to read to them each night can help them develop an essential life skill that will make or break their future. 

I’m not yet a mother, but when I do have children of my own, I’ll have a library waiting for them. My love of reading was a gift that my mother fostered in me from a young age, and I’m so thankful for those hours she spent reading to me. I hope that I can instill the same love of reading in my children and future generations. 

2 comments

  1. Miss Suzy! I had forgotten that book. She’s a squirrel, right? I remember Miss Twiggley’s Tree. I wanted to live in a tree house too. We had all those books that Mom read to us, and then I read them to kids in Mom’s daycare. Picture books are my favorite. 🙂

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