The importance of developing a child’s speech and language skills through talking and reading cannot be emphasized enough.
In the first three years of life, 80 percent of a child’s physical brain growth occurs. Reading and talking with children enhances vocabulary and helps them understand more. Engaging children in conversation and shared reading helps their cognitive development and gives them the tools to succeed as they grow.
The benefits of reading to a child
Reading with a child has boundless benefits. Reading regularly to babies and toddlers helps develop listening and spoken language, and it promotes literacy for later reading in school. Books provide opportunities for children to experience new vocabulary that may be different from what they experience in conversation alone.
Instead of turning on a TV or tablet screen for entertainment, offer your child a book or sit down and read with him or her. Sitting next to your child helps create a bond and teaches him or her to attend to activities for long periods of time. Here are some more benefits:
• Children who enjoy reading do better in all school subjects and tend to be more well-rounded.
• Reading helps develop imagination and creativity.
• Reading aids in the development of social skills and emotional awareness.
• Reading to children when they are younger encourages them to read on their own.
The benefits of talking to a child
Talking with children is essential to increasing language and communication skills. The more you talk with children, the better. When children hear more words, they will understand and speak more themselves. However, in order to learn best, children need to be engaged in conversation, not just around it. When children are included in conversations, they have the opportunity to build stronger language, healthy relationships and social skills. Below are some more benefits:
• Talking to children promotes word learning by sharpening their ability to process new words quickly.
• Conversation helps children understand body language and interpret non-verbal cues.
• Asking open-ended questions will get your child engaged and thinking.
• Conversation helps with school readiness and academic performance.
In summary, just make sure you're talking to and reading with your kids — often! You'll have a great time together and your child will learning something along the way.
Amy Tyler-Krings is a research assistant in the Infant Language Development Laboratory for the Boys Town National Research Hospital. Read more about Tyler-Krings here.