Reading aloud to young children plays an important role in shaping their communication skills, behaviour and emotional development. Photo: Courtesy
Reading to children before tucking them in has been an age old tradition whose benefits transcend getting the little one to calm down and drift off.
Research has shown that reading to young children and playing with them aids in language skills, behavioural, social and emotional development.
Young kids primarily learn through interaction with their immediate environment. This means that how parents interact with young children largely affects their development of language skills.
According to early child development expert, Hirsh-Pasek, young children do not just learn from their environment, even animals can do that; they are able to understand people around them and interpret their intentions.
This ability to understand people and their intentions is key in honing communication skills among young children though shared attention.
Research has shown that shared attention is pivotal in conscious human learning. It is the reason why young children do not learn how to communicate from audio, video or overheard conversations.
Positive behaviour and analytical skills
Reading to young children provides parents with fertile ground to educate them on principles of right and wrong.
Findings from the study Reading Aloud, Play and Social-Emotional Development, published in the journal Paediatrics, show that reading to children when they are very young, from birth to 3 years, has an impact on behaviour.
Dr. Adriana Weisleder, an author in the study, notes that in reading and playing, young children encounter situations that are more complex than what they are used to in normal life. Adults can help them think on how to manage such situations; hence improving their analytical skills.
“…engaging in more reading and play both directly reduces kids’ behaviour problems because they’re happier and also makes parents enjoy their child more and view that relationship more positively,” she adds.
Dr Mendelsohn, another author in the study, points out that through reading and playing with their parents or caregivers, kids learn to control their behaviour when playing with other children.
Reading aloud and playing with children can help them think about characters, empathise with those characters and learn to describe feelings with words that are otherwise difficult.
According to Dr. Mendelsohn, this equips them with the ability to control their own behaviour when faced with feelings such as anger or sadness.
These studies underline the importance of parents playing active roles in their children’s lives (such as reading and playing), especially from birth to 3 years of age when most learning takes place.