Why Reading Is So Important in the First Five Years

July 1, 2021


Reading to a child offers an astonishing array of benefits. From providing comfort and encouragement, confidence and security, to offering relaxation, joy, and entertainment—the power of storytime is tremendous. When you give a child your time and full attention while reading to them, it lets them know that they matter and that they are in a safe space to explore new ideas, thoughts, and feelings. It builds self-esteem, vocabulary, nourishes the imagination, and ultimately gives them the tools they need to understand the world around them.

It is never too early to start a child’s reading journey, either. So much happens in the first five years of life. From learning to walk and talk to think and feel—these are the years that will provide the foundation for how a child learns and develops throughout the rest of their life. In addition, young children are incredibly hungry for growth, experience, and narratives to help them make connections between themselves and others. Reading a child fairytales and stories satisfies all of these appetites while also establishing a strong parental bond. 

The years before five last the rest of their life


Every year of a child’s life is precious, but the importance of the first five cannot be overstated. It is during this critical period when a collection of pivotal experiences will ultimately help shape the person they are going to be. This is when they acquire the ability to comprehend appropriate behaviour, boundaries, empathy, and many other critical social skills that will remain with them for life.

Crucially, these skills and behaviours are best learned through thoughtful and consistent human interaction. Despite the many ways that technology has enhanced our lives and made them easier, there is no substitute for the reassuring presence of a parent or guardian to help steer a child through these decisive years. 

A variety of recent studies have outlined significant changes in language development and social skills of school-age children — and it’s thought to be the result of changes in early childhood experiences. With more busy parents relying on technology to educate and entertain their children, younger learners miss out on the direct human connection that is so critical to this stage of development. Being able to solve a complex game on a screen might activate one part of the brain, but it is no substitute for the vast array of processes that are simultaneously unfolding during storytime. With that in mind, let’s explore some of the many ways that reading out loud together helps your child grow: 



If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.

– Albert Einstein


Cognitive development 


When you read aloud to your child, the content of the stories you share provides them with the material needed to start building a framework for all the new things they see, hear, and, eventually, read. This exposure to tales from other times, places, and cultures provides necessary background knowledge and helps them bridge the content of the story with their own young lives. 

You’re helping them build and reinforce pathways in the brain, and the time you invest will have immediate and lasting effects. Studies have found that the frequency of reading to children at a young age directly impacts their schooling outcomes—regardless of family background and home environment. It improves their performance not only in language and literacy but also numeracy and overall cognition.

Expanded vocabulary


Reading also helps to dramatically expand the number and variety of words that children can understand and use. Without the addition of fairy tales and stories, the words that children are exposed to in day-to-day life and communication are relatively repetitious. While reading a story, though, you might end up using more specific names for different plants and animals, or descriptive words that they have never heard before. All of these little stepping stones add up. One 2019 study estimated that children who are regularly read to in the five years leading up to kindergarten are exposed to 1.4 million more words than children who are not.

Self-confidence 


Mental health has been the subject of increasing focus in recent years, and experts are realising that the foundation of overall wellness starts very young. When small children are read to, their creativity and curiosity are stimulated, and they become excited about taking on different roles and responsibilities. This role-play behaviour becomes very important as children grow, helping them develop empathy, problem-solving and morality. These are all characteristics needed to produce well-adjusted young people who are able to deal with life’s challenges and exert their independence. By establishing a reading routine with your child, you’re helping to promote maturity and discipline while nurturing their self-confidence and giving them the inspiration they need to find and pursue their passions. 

Not to mention, by allowing your child to discover the power of reading in a safe and loving setting, you alleviate any pressure or anxiety they may experience in their future classroom. Reading with children early on ensures they will become competent and confident at it before having to do it in front of others.

Creativity


When it comes to nurturing the creative spirit that each of us is born with, books and stories open up a whole new world to your child. Fairy tales and fiction, in particular, are vital in their capacity to stimulate young minds to journey beyond the world around them. By drawing on elements of fantasy and folklore, these stories get kids thinking outside the box and feed their natural curiosity. By exposing your child to a broader range of ideas and narratives, you’re not only helping to fuel their emerging interests—you’re also fostering emotional health and giving them the tools that will be important to create meaningful connections later in life.

Life lessons


Stories also supply an ideal gateway into discussing real-world situations in age-appropriate ways. Young kids especially enjoy stories that feature children their own ages in situations they themselves have not experienced. Besides modeling what happens in these various cases, reading about a variety of topics lets children know they are not alone when they deal with something new. The stories you share gives them a framework to understand how other young people dealt with the challenges and surprises they encountered, and provides a comfortable way to introduce difficult or complex topics. For example, Cinderella teaches the importance of standing up for oneself, The Three Little Pigs illustrates the value of hard work and dedication, and Little Red Riding Hood serves as a reminder that it’s necessary to carefully consider situations and people before acting. 



Bonding


It goes without saying that reading to your young child regularly can help you forge a stronger relationship with them. By establishing a regular reading routine, you’re providing your child with the anticipation and satisfaction of an ongoing shared event. Through the act of shared reading, your child will develop trust and expect that you will be there for them. The feeling of intimacy that comes from reading together helps your child feel close to you, and these feelings of love and attention encourage positive growth and development.

It is never too early to start reading together


With so many benefits to be had, there is really no time like the present to start reading to your child. Babies, toddlers, preschoolers, and even older children all benefit from having a caregiver read to them. You don’t even need an extensive personal library of books to get started, either. At Readmio, we’ve made it our mission to help families spend time together. With voice-triggered sounds and music to enhance the stories, our application makes storytime even more fun for you and your child. 



References:

  1. https://www.education.vic.gov.au/documents/about/research/readtoyoungchild.pdf
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30908424/
  3. https://childmind.org/article/4-small-ways-to-build-confidence-in-kids/
  4. https://www.pbs.org/wholechild/providers/play.html