Reading aloud provides key benefits that prepare children for
reading and learning. The greatest amount of brain growth
occurs between birth and age 5. By age 3, about 85% of the brain’s
core structure is formed. In the first three years, infants and
toddlers begin acquiring the first of thousands of words they
will use throughout their lives. Just as a child develops language
skills long before being able to speak, she also develops literacy
skills long before being able to read. Given the course of brain
development, it’s not surprising that young children who are
read to become good readers later.
Dominic Massaro, professor emeritus in psychology at
the University of California, Santa Cruz, studies language
acquisition and literacy. He says that, while parents can build
their children’s vocabularies by talking to them (which Stanford
research has shown) but reading aloud to them is more effective.
He asserts that reading aloud is actually the best way to children
develop word mastery and grammatical understanding which
is what forms the basis for learning how to read. Word mastery
in adulthood is correlated with early acquisition of words, so
reading aloud to your kids early is a powerful strategy to prepare
them for competent literacy skills throughout life.
Although just talking more to your children throughout the
day does increase their vocabulary, it restricts children to the
words we commonly use in the family. Reading aloud exposes
them to a greater variety of words. In addition, storytelling has
its own benefits, such as promoting creative thinking, enhancing
memory recall, improving attention span, and building a deep
level of engagement which has been tied to improved literacy.
Furthermore, the language in books is very rich. We tend to use
“verbal shorthand” in conversation rather than full sentences,
but in books, the language is more sophisticated and, of course,
in complete sentences.