The benefits of reading to babies
The human brain is powerful and still a mystery, and while babies may not be able to talk, it doesn’t mean they aren’t learning and absorbing everything around them. Researchers have uncovered a critical key to healthy development for babies and toddlers – reading aloud to them every day.
Research tells us three ways early reading can literally change the course of a child’s life:
PROMOTING BRAIN DEVELOPMENT
Science tells us that the first 3 years of life are the most rapid period of growth for a person at any stage of their life. From laying in a crib to crawling to walking and then running, a child’s physical body is growing at a rapid rate. Their brains are growing even faster – hidden behind their giggles is a brain that is fast at work.
Born with about 100 billion neurons (the cells that receive, process, and transmit information in our brains), babies are actively working to make sense of the world around them. These neurons have the ability to connect with each other and form neural pathways – the foundation for learning.
Using language and reading aloud to babies promotes the development of these pathways, and the more pathways a child develops, the more they will be able to learn as time goes on.
The more language a child hears – from reading books, talking and singing songs etc. – the more words they have exposure to. The more words a baby hears, the stronger their cognitive development.
According to research, the quality and quantity of book reading in early infancy influences the child’s vocabulary and early reading skills. This affects their readiness for kindergarten, which is a key predictor of success in school later.
ENHANCING BRAIN PROCESSING SPEED
A child’s mental processing speed is shaped through a rich engagement with language. A fast-processing speed allows babies and toddlers who recognise words to put their energy and focus on the next word in the sentence. Kids who have a high engagement with language (via reading aloud, talking, and more) get more out of each interaction.
Their vocabulary develops, their ability to remember, reason, and conceptualise are all strengthened through the power of hearing words. You may feel a little silly reading to a new-born or very young baby, but think of it like this: they get to enjoy some close bonding with you while hearing your soothing voice as you cosy up together.
Spending time like this every day also has the spin-off benefits of reducing the stress levels of a new-born whose world has dramatically changed from the safety of the womb – and you’ll find that you enjoy this time as much as your baby does!