Value of Read Aloud

By: Neil Mufson
Last week I wrote about how important the establishment of a regular reading habit is for your child’s overall and optimal cognitive development. All sorts of advantages are seen in the profiles of children and young adults who read at least 30 minutes a day. A recent study reported on in The New York Times article “Reading Aloud to Young Children Has Benefits for Behavior & Attention” takes this even further. It makes the case that parent-child play and “the parent-child-book moment… have the potential to curb behaviors like aggression, hyperactivity, and difficulty with attention.”
The study “Reading Aloud, Play, and Social-Emotional Development” was recently published in Pediatrics. It followed a large sample of 4 1/2 year olds who were about to enter formal schooling. Their parents had received coaching on incorporating reading aloud and parent-child play when the children were between birth and 3 years old. The study found that those families who continued to read aloud and play together developed significantly lower levels of aggression, hyperactivity, and difficulty with attention.
The study’s investigator, Dr. Alan Mendelsohn puts it this way: “We think when parents read with their children more, when they play with their children more, the children have an opportunity to think about characters, to think about the feelings of those characters. They learn to use words to describe feelings that are otherwise difficult and this enables them to better control their behavior when they have challenging feelings like anger or sadness.”
The Times article ends by noting, “All families need to know when they read, when they play with their children, they’re helping them learn to control their own behavior so that they will come to school able to manage the business of paying attention and learning.”

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