With all the technology available to families, experts say it’s important not to underestimate the power of reading to your child from a print book.
Research published in Pediatrics looked at differences in parent-toddler interactions when reading electronic and print books. They found that parent and toddlers verbalized less when reading electronic books and that the reading experience was less collaborative between the parent and toddler when reading electronic books.
“It is well known in pediatric medicine, library science and early education literature that shared reading with children, especially in the first five years of life, helps the brain develop, strengthens the parent-child bond, builds language and social skills, and promotes long-term success in school and future careers,” says Kathy Smart, MS RN, coordinator of the Children’s Health Resource Center at Advocate Children’s Hospital in Park Ridge, Ill.
Smart and pediatric development specialists at Advocate Children’s Hospital say that shared reading from birth is one of the most important activities parents can engage in with their children to promote their development. Connecting and bonding with the caregiver is one of the most important components of shared reading and it appears this is more easily achieved through using print books during reading time. Shared reading also exposes children to a wider vocabulary and helps instill a love of reading from an early age. Another benefit to reading print books? It’s fun for kids! They love turning the pages and pointing out the details they see. To encourage shared reading, Advocate Children’s Hospital partners with eight area public libraries to provide books to children in hospital and clinic settings.
Interested in connecting with your child through reading? Follow these tips:
- Read to your children from birth. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, early literacy development should be promoted from infancy to at least kindergarten by pediatric providers.
- Let your child choose books. Let them choose what to read during story time. “This empowers them and engages them in the activity,” says Smart.
- Make books accessible. Keep books in your child’s room, car, backpack, and family room so you can read together whenever you have a moment.
- Share books you love. Children can tell when you are enthusiastic about a book and are more likely to share your joy.
- Take a picture walk through the book. Start by just looking and pointing at the pictures. Ask your child what they see and wonder with them about what’s happening in the book. Once finished, have your child “read” the book to you, even if they’re just describing the story using the pictures.
- Always make reading a positive experience. If your child loses focus or isn’t feeling well for whatever reason, it’s okay to close a book early. You can always come back to it another time. Enjoying reading time is what’s most important.
- The American Academy of Pediatrics “recommends that pediatric providers promote early literacy development for children beginning in infancy and continuing at least until the age of kindergarten.”