A Million Reasons Why Reading to Children Is Important

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A Million Reasons Why Reading to Children Is Important

August 27, 2020

According to a recent study out of The Ohio State University published in the Journal of Development and Behavioral Pediatrics, children whose parents read them five books a day start kindergarten having heard 1.4 million more words than their peers who were never read to.

Let that sink in for a second…


The study’s lead author, Jessica Logan, calls this the “million word gap” and thinks it is important in understanding vocabulary and reading development differences among 5-year-olds. The study found that the more parents read at home with their children, the more words their children were exposed to:

  • Never read to = 4,662 words
  • Read to 1-2 times per week = 63,570 words
  • Read to 3-5 times per week = 169,520 words
  • Read to daily = 296,660 words
  • Read 5 books a day = 1,483,300 words

“Kids who hear more vocabulary words are going to be better prepared to see those words in print when they enter school,” said Logan. "They are likely to pick up reading skills more quickly and easily.”

Logan continued, “The word gap of more than 1 million words between children raised in a literacy-rich environment and those who were never read to is striking.”

This study certainly highlights the importance of reading multiple books to your children every day, and literacy expert Dr. Margaret Mary Policastro has some ideas on how parents can start this practice.

Policastro is a professor of language and literacy at Roosevelt University in Chicago, where she directs the language and literacy program and is the founding director of the Summer Reading Clinic for children. In her book Living Literacy at Home: A Parent’s Guide she shares innovative strategies to encourage the joy of reading at home.

5 tips for reading aloud to your child:

  1. Be interested in and excited about the book or materials you read with your child.
  2. Select fiction and nonfiction stories and informational text that includes content about the world, nature, science, and other topics of interest to your child.
  3. Use different voices and change volume when you read so that your child learns about what reading with expression sounds like. Whisper for a soft message, and raise your voice for a loud thought. Read as if you are the character and be as animated as possible. Use facial and vocal expressions. Exaggerate your speech when appropriate. Use props for extra fun.
  4. Keep the book wide open when you read so your child can see all the illustrations. Point out the title, author, and illustrator on the book’s front cover. Stop and talk about the illustrations on the cover and on each page.
  5. Highlight words as you read. Stop and talk about an interesting word and use it in context for your child to understand the meaning.

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