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September 2021

Little Bookworms

Reading to your kids early has benefits that last a lifetime.

Mother and two children sitting on the floor reading a book

If you’ve ever begged for just one more bedtime story, you know how wonderful a book can be. And when it comes to reading to your kids, it’s never too early to start.

While reading to an infant, you might wonder how much they can understand. They may not know exactly what you’re saying yet, but this is the time when their brains are quickly developing. The first few years set the stage for the rest of their lives—and reading is an important part of that.

Why? It strengthens their language skills, even when they’re little. It also helps children:

  • Learn new vocabulary

  • Connect words to pictures

  • Understand stories

Kids and parents win

As babies grow into toddlers and beyond, reading is a window into another world. Through books, they can learn kindness and empathy for others. Down the road, an early foundation of reading also helps lead to greater success in school.

But the benefits don’t stop there. A study in Pediatrics found that reading books to kids when they’re young can improve their social and behavioral skills. That means greater emotional well-being and a higher quality of life.

There’s even more good news: Reading to kids is helpful for parents, too. It can strengthen the bond between a parent and child. It might even help reduce a parent’s stress and depression.

What to read when

Wondering what books will work best for your kids? Here are some ideas based on your child’s age:

  • 12 months and younger: Thick cardboard books are good for babies, who like to put things in their mouths. Choose books with large, bright pictures.

  • 1 to 2 years: Read books that feature kids, animals, or familiar TV characters. Ask your child simple questions about what’s happening in the stories.

  • 2 to 3 years: If you don’t already have a bedtime reading routine, this can be a good time to start. Look for books with songs, words that rhyme, and repetitive text.

Keep reading aloud to your kids, even after they can read for themselves. It’s a few minutes a day that you have together. Try different types of books, like nursery rhymes, fairy tales, mysteries, and poetry. Always keep it fun so that children don’t think of reading as a chore. Sometimes that means reading the same book over and over again if that’s what your child picks!


Online Medical Reviewer: Ray Turley, MSN, BSN
Online Medical Reviewer: Rina Lazebnik, MD
Date Last Reviewed: 5/1/2021
© 2000-2022 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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