As a parent, getting kids to bed can be difficult when they are full of energy and don’t feel ready to sleep. Reading bedtime stories to them can help give kids something to look forward to as they get ready for bed. They can get into their pajamas, snuggle up, and listen as you read them to sleep.
Besides being a great bonding experience between parent and child, there are several benefits to reading to your children before bed from infancy to older elementary levels.
Increase their vocabulary.
Reading to your children can expand their vocabulary as you expose them to language sounds. Through books, your child encounters new words and discovers new ways to use the words they already know. Young children can learn how to put together sentences correctly and learn vowels or phonemes.
You can also increase their communication skills by engaging in discussions about what they read. Children’s literature introduces children to objects and ideas that may not be part of daily conversation, such as food or animals in other countries.
Having a larger inner dictionary can increase your child’s confidence as they learn to read and speak. It gives them more words to express themselves, encouraging clearer communication both at home and at school.
Teach them morals.
Children’s books are full of morals and teachable moments. You can find books about honesty, courage, friendship, justice, family, identity, and so on. Every night you read together, you expose your child to valuable morals and teach them the importance of right and wrong and being kind to others. These lessons are easier for children to absorb when presented at their level in a safe, fictional world rather than as a firm lecture from an adult.
Reading together is also a great way to equip your child with the tools they need to have a strong moral foundation. It can also teach them important emotional lessons, such as how to name their feelings and talk about them, or how to deal with big and confusing emotions.
Foster their imagination.
Many children’s books take place in fantastical worlds with creatures of all shapes and sizes. As your kids listen to you read, they re-imagine the scenes in their mind and learn how to create their own imaginary worlds. Imagination is a fundamental component for creativity, which helps children think of solutions to problems and adapt quickly to new or uncertain environments.
Develop logic skills.
When you reread books with children, you can help them develop their logic skills. Kids don’t always catch everything the first time they listen to someone read to them. When you reread a story with them, they begin noticing patterns and structures.
For example, in “Are You My Mother?” by P.D. Eastman, children can use their prior knowledge to predict what the little bird will ask the different animals he encounters. Asking what they think will happen next or how you think the story could end differently can lead them to use their logical reasoning and build their reading comprehension.
Encourage reading comprehension.
Talking about the books you read with your child is a great way to test their listening skills and reading comprehension. Simple questions like, “What do you think will happen next?” or “Do you think she made a good choice?” can keep your child engaged and thinking while they listen to you read.
Your discussions don’t have to be in-depth, but as you model how to process the text as you read, your child will do the same when they start reading on their own. Over time, you can ask more thought-provoking questions and have deeper discussions about some of the topics you read about.
Lower stress levels.
When children are comfortable and warm snuggled up with a parent, they feel safe and able to concentrate freely on the stories you read with them. No matter what problems they might have faced during the day, reading allows them to engage with a fictional world and learn about different topics in a safe environment. Cuddling with a parent during a bedtime story also reduces cortisol levels, allowing them to relax and listen more attentively.
Unlike television, which does not require as much brain activity and focus, reading is more complex. It allows the brain to build new connections and teach children to retain information, which further fosters their comprehension and improves their concentration. It also requires them to sit still to give the book their full attention.
Reading to your child can lower stress levels and teach them fundamental skills that will last into adulthood. Most of all, spending quality time with your child before bed can help them feel safe and increase their bond with you. You can spark their love for reading when they associate books with fond memories.
Emily currently lives in Orange County, California after spending four years in Illinois and half a year teaching in Florence, Italy. She holds a B.A. in English Literature from Knox College and an M.A. in Counseling from the University of San Diego and has taught English to native speakers and ESL students for over three years. When she’s not working as a School Counselor or writing, she enjoys traveling the world, playing instruments, and blogging about Millennial experiences at Long Live the Twenties.