Expert Highlights Benefits of Reading to Children

By: Courtney Caprara

Expert Highlights Benefits of Reading to Children

Reading to young children is one of the best ways for them to develop their listening and speaking skills and grow their vocabularies.

Dr. Dawna Duff from the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences discusses the benefits of reading to children.

Why should adults read to young children?

A. Reading to kids is a fun way for adults to spend time with the children in their lives. When children read books with adults, they are constantly learning how sounds fit together into words and how to put words into sentences. These language skills will help them excel in reading and writing once they start school, and they will become even more evident in third and fourth grade. Knowing more words also helps children communicate with others and explain their ideas, and it can help to eliminate communication-related frustrations. 

What kinds of books are best to read to young children?

A. The best books for young children contain flaps, things to touch and pictures of faces. Books with repetitive rhyming words and silly sounds help children learn that all letters make a different sound. For example, rhymes like “ball” and “fall” show children the difference between the “b” and “f” sounds. As children start to read and write independently, they will know to pay attention to the first letters in the word.

How can adults help children learn new words?

A. Children learn words from listening to adults speak, but books contain an even broader vocabulary. Studies show that young children don’t naturally look at text when they’re sharing a book with a grownup, so touching the text while reading helps them realize that the written words are related to what the adult is saying.

Rereading books can be tiresome for adults. Is it helpful for kids?

A. Rereading the same book over and over may seem redundant to adults, but it helps children commit new words to memory. Children who hear a new word repeatedly in one story learn more about that word than children who hear the word the same number of times in different books. As children get more familiar with a book, pause and wait for the child to finish the sentences. Explaining new words and asking children questions helps them expand their ability to communicate.