Benefits Of Reading Aloud

Written By: Barnali Sarkar

“One of the greatest gifts adults can give – to their offspring and to their society – is to read to children.” – Carl Sagan

 

As I sat down to pen my thoughts about this blog, there were various questions clouding my mind. I started reading up and pondering over the significance of reading aloud to children or shared book reading. The more I read, the more I wondered about the effect it had on parents and/or caregivers and children alike. Of course it is an activity where both the parent and children are involved. It could help the parents relax after a long day while the children could learn new things or simply enjoy their reading time. But why was it talked about so much among parents and emphasized upon by psychologists? 

I surfed various sites and came across several aspects that proved to be an eye-opener. For instance, I chanced upon a study done by the Ohio State University that talked about bridging the “million word gap” and how children whose parents read them even one book a day, hear around 290,000 more words by the time they turn 5 as compared to children who are not read to. The study explained how reading aloud to a child sparks an active discussion or sows the seeds of an interactive conversation leading to “extra-textual talk” not seen in daily communication. In other words, it introduces children to new and more complex and difficult words or expressions not used in everyday conversations. For example, a child may learn about new places (countries or continents), unknown species of plants and animals, or entirely new concepts such as space. 

Some of the well-known attributes of reading aloud to children include:

  • building the Word Bank and learning to use new words
  • developing word-sound or phonological awareness and word recognition skills
  • developing accuracy and clarity of expression
  • enhanced listening skills and sustained attention span 

The more I delved deeper, I realised that reading aloud to kids gave rise to enhanced emotional and analytical reasoning and development.

A study by Rhode Island Hospital compared two groups of 8-month-old infants and found that the group that was often read to as babies had 40% enhanced receptive vocabularies while the non-reading group had a mere 16% increase. 

Reading aloud to children awakens several regions in the left part of the brain actively involved with comprehending the meaning of words, concepts related to memory and visual imagery as it enhances visualisation and imagination. The brain’s connectivity is heightened as it starts decoding a series of abstract symbols while at the same time, it synthesises the results and gives rise to complex ideas. There is also enhanced emotional intelligence and fluid reasoning as there is stimulation of the neurological regions of the brain including phonemic awareness, comprehension, and auditory as well as visual processes.

Although the scope of reading extends much more than simply interpreting written words into a more easily understandable verbal form, the powerful medium of words can be associated with personal experiences. Hence reading aloud to children opens the doors to a world outside their own or known surroundings as it expands the boundaries of their world, opens up their minds, and generates new ideas and possibilities.

As there is increased and better communication between you and your child, he/she learns to understand and act logically, delves into the cause and effect of actions, and also thinks in abstract terms or in a manner that is out of the box. In 2013, a study published in the Perspectives on Psychological Science, a peer-reviewed academic journal on Psychology presenting meta-analyses, theoretical statements, program overviews, and integrative reviews, stated that a child’s IQ level is raised by over 6 points if one reads out to him/her.

 

Well, you can start by reading out a good story to your precious one. After all, you can never go wrong following Dr. Seuss’s literary prescription stating that you’re never too old, too wacky, or too wild, to pick up a book and read to a child….

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