Reading to your toddler likely involves being interrupted, skipping pages, and conversing as much as reading. Far from a waste of time, this is developmentally appropriate and just what your child needs at this stage!
Here are some of the benefits of interactive story time with your toddler:
Future Academic & Career Success
Worldwide research tells us that reading to very young children is linked to superior academic performance in high school. In the U.S., reading level in third grade is the number-one predictor of graduating from high school and succeeding in the workforce. Statistics say that two-thirds of American third graders lack adequate reading skills, which has led organizations like the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and BookTrust to push to get more children reading more books as early as possible. In fact, the AAP recommends that regular reading time start in infancy.
During the first years of life, 1 million new neural connections form every second. Reading is jam-packed with brain-building stimulation as children take in auditory and visual information and connect dots between them. What’s more, the back-and-forth between adults and children as they talk about a book is a form of “serve and return” —a main ingredient of optimal brain development.
A strong bond with parents/caregivers predicts many positive life outcomes. But once babies hit toddlerhood, distractions from close, positive interactions abound. Between chasing him around, attending music class, and managing tantrums, it can be hard to remember to cuddle and connect.
Reading is a simple way to build bonding into your day. Your toddler may not sit and read for long, but it encourages closeness and enjoyable interaction every day.
During months 12-24, children’s speech explodes and their understanding of language is well underway. Reading regularly during this time of rich language development helps children acquire vocabulary and learn things like grammar, sentence structure, and sequencing. It also begins to teach the important skill of narrative development.
Reading reinforces social skills, including:
Initiating interaction — Your toddler does this when he retrieves a book and brings it to you to read.
Listening, using questions to get information, and conversational turn-taking — All of these take place while you talk to each other about a book.
Perspective taking — The ability to understand what someone else is feeling and why doesn’t fully develop until elementary school, but you can begin to nurture it now by talking about how book characters feel and why.
Understanding nonverbal cues — Things like your tone of voice while reading and the expressions on book characters’ faces help your toddler learn to get information from nonverbal forms of communication.
Executive functioning (EF) skills allow us to focus, plan, accomplish tasks, control impulses, and understand and manage emotions. Reading contributes to EF development as your toddler connects words to objects, uses working memory, increases his attention span, and identifies feelings and emotions of characters.
Who knew that story time with a toddler packs such a punch? These tips can help you maximize the benefits.