"Why Read?" Part 1: The Science

Updated: Oct 26, 2019

Part 1: The Science Behind Why Reading Is So Important For Children.”

Most people would agree that reading to kids is a good idea. But why?

The greatest amount of brain growth happens between birth and age 5[1]. Creating, as our family pediatrician called it, a “word rich environment” is one of the most impactful things you can do as a parent. Unfortunately, statistics do show that families socioeconomic classification tends to correlate to the number of words children are exposed to. Those with higher educated parents are exposed to 215,000 words PER WEEK, where low-income children are exposed to 62,000 PER WEEK[2].

Why is there a link between socioeconomic factors and word exposure? In an article titled “The 30 Million Word Gap by Age 3”[3] they discuss the alarming implications of children who don’t experience a word rich environment. Factors that contribute to the discrepancy are education level and vocabulary of parents themselves, access to resources, more leisure time, more time for purposeful and intentional experience with kids, LIMITED ACCESS TO BOOKS and many others. Overcoming these hurdles is an important movement in early childhood learning right now. Through the findings of serval longitudinal studies, it has been discovered that “Children’s academic successes at ages 9 and 10 can be attributed to the amount of talk they hear from birth through age 3.[4]

How?! We can’t just sit and talk to our toddlers all day long. Research suggests that it can start as simple as talking through everything you do with a child all day. Instead of just putting them in the car, shutting the door and walking off you could narrate the experience. It’s been found that parents who talk about their daily activities as they interact with their children expose them to 1,000-2,000 words per hour[5]! Especially with non-verbal infants this can feel a little silly, but it pays off.

Another great resource for verbal interactions with kids is READING. Here are some compelling statements from researchers and psychologists on the benefits of reading to young children.

“Reading aloud to young children is not only one of the best activities to stimulate language and cognitive skills; it also builds motivation, curiosity, and memory.[6]

“The single most significant factor influencing a child’s early educational success is an introduction to books and being read to at home prior to beginning school[7].”

“By the age of 2, children who are read to regularly display greater language comprehension, larger vocabularies, and higher cognitive skills than their peers[8].”

“Books contain many words that children are unlikely to encounter frequently in spoken language. Children’s books actually contain 50% more rare words than primetime television or even college students’ conversations[9].”

“When adults read to children, discussing story content, asking open-ended questions about story events, explaining the meaning of words, and pointing out features of print, they promote increased language development, comprehension of story content, knowledge of story structure, and a better understanding of language– all of which lead to literacy success[10].”

This post is the first of a series titled “Why Read?” We will be exploring the science behind reading, the importance of representation & diversity in literature, the social learning, and emotional benefits that reading has on kids. Finally, we’ll finish the series off with a release of several book lists to get your family starting fostering “a word rich environment.”

Join us next week for more!

We'd love to hear about your experiences reading with your kids! Follow us on Instagram to share, comment or email us at raisingfortworth.com.


[1] “Lifetime Effects: The High/Scope Perry Preschool Study Through age 40.” Ypsilanti, MI: High/Scope Educational Research Foundation, 2005.

[2] Hart, B. & Risley, T.R. (1995). Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experience of Young American Children. Baltimore, MD: Brookes Publishing.

[3] https://www.aft.org/ae/spring2003/hart_risley

[4] Hart and Risley, Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experience of Young American Children.

[5] Hart and Risley (1999) The social world of children learning to talk

[6] Bardige, B. Talk to Me, Baby!(2009), Paul H Brookes Pub Co.

[7] National Commission on Reading, 1985

[8] Raikes, H., Pan, B.A., Luze, G.J., Tamis-LeMonda, C.S.,Brooks-Gunn, J., Constantine,J., Tarullo, L.B., Raikes, H.A., Rodriguez, E. (2006). “Mother-child book reading in low-income families: Correlates and outcomes during the first three years of life.” Child Development, 77(4).

[9] The Read-Aloud Handbook, by Jim Trelease.

[10] Berk, L. E. (2009). Child Development (8th ed.). Pearson Education, Inc.

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