Study after study shows that reading to children, even very young children, plays an important role in language development, including vocabulary development and sentence structure.
Reading to young children helps them develop their language skills. Photo by J. Aaron Farr. Click to enlarge.
According to the National Institutes of Health, the most intense period of language development is between birth and 3 years. In fact, due to the rapid development of the brain, babies begin to understand the basic sounds of their native language by 6 months old. In the September 2007 issue of NIH News in Health, NIH explained the difference between speech and language. They define speech as “the verbal expression of language,” and that language is “the entire system by which we express and receive information in a way that’s meaningful.”
The AAP says that infants learn through their experiences and interactions. They go on to say that one of the best ways for an infant to learn how to talk is by being read to, and recommend you make a habit of reading to your baby every day. The National Scientific Council for the Developing Child agrees, stating in one of its briefs that reading to very young children even before they have begun to identify letters can form an important foundation for vocabulary and language development later in life.
Reading to babies increases their language input, thus exposing them to more words and repetitions of words than they would normally get in everyday activities. It also has an effect on the long term educational success of children. In the May 20, 2010 issue of Science Daily, Mariah Evans discusses her 20-year study that revealed that regardless of socio-economic status, literacy and the number of books in the home had a direct effect on the amount of education the child will attain.
Setting the pattern of reading daily early helps ensure that as your child ages they will continue to have an interest in books, which is important as they enter school.