Creative Child April 2019 - Page 23

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. 22