Reading Aloud to Your Kids Makes Them Kinder and Smarter, Researchers Say

September 6, 2019 Updated: September 8, 2019

This question might be on the tip of every thinking parent’s tongue: “How can we raise kind, intelligent kids?”

You may be relieved to learn that the answer is simple. Research suggests that the very best tactic you can employ as a parent to ensure that your kid grows up caring and intelligent is completely free of charge. Not only that, but it will only take up 15 minutes of your day, and almost everybody is capable of doing it.

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The answer is indeed simple, and it’s this: read aloud to your child every single day. Even if your child can read themselves, researchers have found that children who are read to by their parents develop strong empathy skills and a keen intelligence.

Crucially, after a busy working day or being run ragged by household chores, it’s not always easy to find the time to read aloud. In a 2018 national survey of American families titled “How America Reads Aloud to its Children,” only 30 percent of parents reported reading aloud to their kids for 15 minutes a day or more.

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For the remaining 70 percent, time constraints could well be the reason that reading fell to the bottom of the priority pile. However, is it really worth making the effort? The experts think so; here are six incredible changes that will occur when you read to your child every day.

1. Their brain will develop faster

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A detailed study in which young children were read to by adults states that during storytime, a number of regions in the left hemispheres of the children’s brains were actively stimulated. The left brain is responsible for understanding the meaning of words and concepts and information retention.

2. Their vocabulary will improve

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“The child goes to school to learn new words,” explains The Read-Aloud Handbook, “but the words he [or she] already knows determine how much of what the teacher says will be understood.” Classroom instructions are predominantly oral, the book continues, so children with the largest vocabulary will understand the most.

3. They develop a life-long affinity with reading

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Reading is fundamental. Kids who struggle to read run the risk of falling behind in their studies and developing a negative association with books. Reading aloud to children provides a brilliant model for reading alone and also allows the child to associate positively with books.

4. Their behavior will get better

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According to The New York Times, a pediatric study has found that the “parent-child-book moment” has the potential to help deal with massive behavioral problems such as inappropriate aggression and hyperactivity. “An intervention,” the study found, “based in pediatric primary care to promote parents reading aloud, and playing with their young children, could have a sustained impact on children’s behavior.”

5. They will become kinder

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“Neuroscientists mapping the brain,” say the experts at Psychology Today, “have discovered that reading fiction taps into the same brain networks as real-life experience. When you are engaged in reading a fictional story,” they explained, “your brain is literally living vicariously through the characters at a neurobiological level.”

Loosely translated, this means that by reading aloud you are exposing your child to different types of people and personality types. Your child will develop the ability to understand another person’s perspective and will eventually apply this emotional intelligence in the real world.

6. You will bond more strongly with your child

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It’s hard to read aloud without snuggling up close. Kids love physical and emotional bonding, and Liza Baker, the executive editorial director at Scholastic, told The Washington Post that “kids, time and time again, said the most special time they recall spending with a parent is reading together.”

This simple act really is that impactful.

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Reading aloud with your children only takes up 15 minutes of your day, but the benefits are huge. So if you want a quick solution to the problem of how to raise kind, intelligent kids, then look no further than a cuddle, a book, and a few minutes of quality reading time.