Pediatricians State That Reading Books to Young Children Encourages Brain Development

Imagine that you are a little kid again. It’s nighttime, and after having the nightly argument about eating your dinner vegetables, followed by a scholarly debate about why you don’t really need to take a bath (technically you lost, but you know you had some great points anyway). Your mother tucks you into bed, and you feel warm and happy and loved. What’s next? A bedtime story, of course. 

Many adults are fortunate enough to have countless memories like these, but an alarming number of adults do not. In fact, a shocking number of teens and adults today would say that they don’t remember their parents ever reading out loud to them. It doesn’t seem like a big deal at face value, but in a recent statement issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Council on Early Childhood, this small detail can make all the difference when making sure that children develop strong literacy abilities.

Expert Dr. Pamela High noted that this statement is the first of its kind which concretely states that creating a daily reading routine starting during infancy, no matter how informal the routine might be, is one of the most effective ways to prevent illiteracy. High also noted that less than half of all American children are read to every day, and that over 33 percent of American children enter kindergarten with enough language skills to achieve the expected reading level. Furthermore, a child’s reading proficiency in the third grade is actually a significant predictor of whether that child will graduate from high school.

Why is reading so important even before a child understands language? Studies show that having exposure to new words and concepts will help children develop stronger reading capabilities and will have a better grasp of both grammar and vocabulary. Young children are often described as “little sponges;” they tend to “soak up” information without even trying, and being exposed to foreign words and sounds is how children learn to communicate. Additionally, lacking a nurturing environment which encourages learning is likely to hinder social and emotional development later on. Between infancy and six years of age, children go through a critical period of brain development; once this period has passed, learning becomes increasingly more complicated. 

So now you know — if you’re a parent or you interact with young children often, you actually have the power to affect whether these children will develop strong language skills, and you might even give them the power to graduate from high school. And all it takes is one book a day.