Benefits of Reading To Children

Reading to children can create valuable experiences that increase the bond between a child and their parent/carer. The regular practice of shared reading can help children gain essential literacy skills, setting them up for a lifetime of self-education and personal growth.

  • Reading to a child can increase their IQ by up to 6 points.
  • Bedtime reading to children aged 3-5 can help them to fall asleep for longer durations.
  • Children who are read to by family members at least 3 times a week are twice as likely to score in the top 25% in reading when compared to those who don’t.
  • Reading aloud to children has been shown to give kids the reading bug to the point where they will read regularly as adults.
  • Reading at home, reading aloud with parents and others, or simply having books available are the best signifiers of a young person’s reading ability further down the line.
  • High-achieving disadvantaged children by age 11 are two times as likely to have been read to at home in their younger years, compared to their peers.
  • Children who grow up in poverty have a much greater chance of economic success in their 30s if they were read to at age 5, compared to peers not read to at that age.
  • Imagination, understanding, and mental imagery are improved by parents reading out loud to their children.
  • Over a third of American children begin kindergarten lacking the skills needed to read.
  • In addition, around two-thirds still cannot read to a proficient level by the end of third grade.

Benefits of shared reading

Shared reading can provide a number of mental, physical and social benefits to children across different age groups. Board books and textured books can refine motor skills in early years, children’s stories can continue to develop interest in reading and reading alongside adults can even give children confidence when forming social bonds.

  • Babies who were regularly read to from 6 months onwards showed 40% growth in their receptive vocabulary by the time they reached 18 months.
  • Shared reading with a child in their early years can support their attachment, vital to their future happiness and social skills.
  • Children who form secure attachments will generally show enthusiasm during shared reading, motivating parents/carers to continue with the habit, which in turn continues to strengthen bonds.
  • Cuddling, smiling, singing and laughing during shared reading are vital to boost secure attachments.
  • Furthermore, shared reading offers a child more opportunity for verbal interaction than other activities such as arts and crafts, playing with toys or mealtime.
  • Shared reading in the home even influences a child’s academic performance to a greater level than parental supervision, school activity attendance or monitoring homework.
  • As the focus of shared reading is on the story, it facilitates word learning better than other day-to-day moments where they typically have to extract words during a stream of ongoing activities.
  • Regardless of a child’s background, shared reading develops brain activity areas associated with attention, language, memory, adjustment and self-control.
  • Additional literacy benefits can manifest at the beginning and throughout their schooling, such as the size of their vocabulary, oral language skills, concepts of print, identification of words and comprehension.
  • By reading to your child, you can help contribute to their understanding of humanity and the world at large.

When reading books aloud starts by child age

To reap the benefits of a lifelong reading habit, the age at which a child is first read to by their parents and/or carers can signify a crucial development milestone in their education.

  • A survey found that the number of parents who started reading to their children before they reached 3 months of age rose from 30% in 2014 to 43% in 2018.
  • The number of parents who started reading to their children between 3 months of age and their first birthday dropped from 43% in 2014 to 34% in 2018.
  • The number of parents who started reading to their children before their first birthday rose from 73% in 2014 to 77% in 2018.
  • The number of parents who started reading to their children between 1 to 5 years of age decreased from 27% in 2014 to 23% in 2018.
  • Overall, trends show that parents are increasingly reading to their children at younger ages. 
Child age201420162018
Up to 3 months30%40%43%
3 months up to 1 year43%37%34%
1 to 5 years27%23%23%

A graph is given below to show the age of children when reading books aloud begins by year:

Opinions on reading aloud from children and parents

As with any method of education, enthusiasm from the teacher and the learner can go a great way to increase its effectiveness. Reading aloud is valued highly by both children and parents alike.

  • A survey of parents who read aloud found that 86% of parents liked or loved reading aloud to their children a lot.
  • In comparison, 83% of children liked or loved being read to aloud a lot.
  • 92% of parents believed reading aloud is a special time for parents and children to spend together. 
  • In comparison, 85% of children believed reading aloud is a special time for parents and children to spend together. 
  • Responses show that reading aloud is a highly valued activity for both the child and the parent overall.
OpinionChild*Parent**
Liked/loved read-aloud a lot83%86%
Believe it is a special time with each other85%92%
(*Children aged 6 to 14. **Parents of children aged 0 to 14.)

A graph is given below to show the opinions on read-aloud from children and parents:

Roles played during read-aloud

During a read-aloud session, children and parents can engage in different roles to increase their level of bonding and engagement. Involving children in different responsibilities within read-aloud can offer a more active experience.

  • A survey of parents who read aloud found that children and parents typically take on different roles during sessions, although there is some crossover. Parents report that:
  • 86% of children will choose the book to read, compared to 36% of parents. 
  • 68% of children will ask questions, compared to 55% of parents.
  • 61% of children will turn the page, compared to 68% of parents.
  • 44% of children will make sound effects, compared to 77% of parents.
  • 43% of children will read aloud, compared to 84% of parents.
  • The results show some clear preferences between the child and parent, especially when it comes to the choice of book, making sound effects and reading aloud itself.
RoleChildParent
Chooses the book86%36%
Asks questions68%55%
Turns the page61%68%
Makes sound effects44%77%
Reads aloud43%84%
(Children aged 0 to 11.)

A graph is given below to show the roles played during read-aloud:

Reading aloud trends by age group

Attitudes from parents towards read-aloud sessions can differ depending on the age group of their children. As parents start to give less importance to reading aloud, they also tend to decrease the frequency of the sessions.

  • A survey of parents who read aloud found that the importance they give it and the amount of days it occurs differs depending on their child’s age group.
  • Parents of children aged between 3 and 5 give the most importance to reading aloud and perform read-aloud sessions most frequently.
  • In contrast, parents of children aged between 12 and 14 give the least importance to reading aloud and perform read-aloud sessions the least frequently. 
  • The importance and frequency of reading aloud from parents remains at high levels for children aged 0 through to 8. 
  • When children are aged 9 to 11, there is a significant drop in the importance and frequency of reading aloud, before dropping further in the 12 to 14 age group.
Child ageParent says reading aloud is to child very/extremely importantParent says child is read aloud to 5-7 days a week
0 – 293%52%
3 – 597%58%
6 – 895%45%
9 – 1160%21%
12 – 1436%7%

A graph is given below to show reading aloud trends by age group:

Reasons given for reading aloud to children

A high frequency of parents read aloud to their children to prepare them for sleep, which may help us understand why the number of weekly read-aloud sessions greatly decrease for the 9 to 11 age group.

  • A survey of parents who read aloud to their children found bedtime/naptime was reported by 87% as a reason for reading aloud to their children.
  • 70% of parents read to their children because their children ask them to.
  • 48% of parents read to their children when their children need quiet time.
  • Reading to provide a learning moment (40%) and because of time spent waiting (39%) were less frequently reported.
  • Furthermore, 94% of parents reported reading aloud as part of a routine and 91% reported reading aloud on spontaneous occasions.
ReasonPercentage of parents reported by
Bedtime/naptime87%
Child asked70%
Child needs quiet time48%
Learning moment40%
Waiting time39%
Other reason8%
(Children aged 0 to 8.)

A graph is given below to show the reasons given for reading aloud to children:

Reading benefits for children

  • Frequent reading changes the structure of the brain in a way that allows children to develop at a faster rate.
  • Reading consistently at a young age has been shown to increase vocabulary which in turn is an indicator of success in areas such as test scores, getting into college and being offered more lucrative jobs.
  • Taking screens away and introducing reading aids the ability of children under the age of 5 to learn.
  • Kids are 4 times less likely to graduate if they can’t read at a grade level by third grade.
  • Reading level at 4th grade is an indicator of future success, reading at a young age can ensure your child doesn’t get left behind.
  • Students who read for pleasure have been shown to have significantly stronger language skills.
  • Children that read for pleasure can gain a 10% increase in vocabulary, 9% increase in general knowledge and even an 8% improvement in math.
  • Only 29% of the 8-12 age group read books for fun daily but average screen times of around 4.5 hours. 
  • After they finish reading a book, 82% of kids feel a sense of accomplishment.
  • 74% of children agree that they can better understand the world through reading fiction and nonfiction.

Limitations and solutions to reading to children

  • A 2022 survey in the UK found that 28% of parents/carers find reading to their children to be an uneasy task.
  • 21% of parents/carers feel unconfident when choosing books for their children to enjoy.
  • 20% of parents/carers attribute a lack of time as the reason they do not read with their children.
  • Although it is not easy to solve these issues and circumstances differ, parents/carers should try to persevere, using the following methods to overcome difficulties:
    • Focus on making the reading session fun and caring to make the task seem easier and encourage bonding.
    • Allow children to choose the books that they want to read to increase their enjoyment.
    • Aim to read for a short period of time each day (15 minutes) which can still provide benefits.

Benefits of reading to children FAQ

When do kids learn to read?

  • Although the age at which children can begin learning to read varies greatly, there is a typical development timeline for reading skills:
    • Pre-Reading (Age 0 to 5)
    • Emergent Reading (Age 3 to 6)
    • Early Reading (Age 5 to 7)
    • Fluent Reading (Age 7 to 9)
    • Advanced Reading (Age 10+)

What grade do kids learn to read?

  • In the US, children typically begin their first formal reading instruction in either kindergarten or first grade.
  • As there are many stages to the development of a person’s reading ability, reading skills are typically developed throughout childhood, adolescence and even adulthood.

How to teach kids to read?

  • In order to effectively teach children to read, there are five skills essential for early reading development:
    • Phonemic awareness: Gives children the ability to hear, identify and play with the sounds in words.
    • Phonics: Gives children the ability to connect the letters and sounds of a language.
    • Vocabulary: Gives children the ability to communicate effectively using important words.
    • Reading comprehension: Gives children the ability to gain understanding of the text they read.
    • Fluency (oral reading): Gives children the ability to accurately and quickly read text.