Importance of Reading Aloud

Giving young children a foundation for success.

When we look back on our childhood, many of us have fond memories of being read to, of snuggling up and enjoying a favorite story with the people who love us. And it's not so much the story that we remember, but the feeling of love and security that it gave us. 

It turns out that reading aloud, a time-honored tradition in so many families, is actually a wonderful way of helping children to reach their full potential: 

Reading aloud is a great way of engaging with young children

Reading aloud engages young childrenWhat happens during the first few years sets the stage for the rest of a child's life. It is a time when a child's experiences irreversibly affect how the brain develops - for better or worse.( 1)

Nurturing from a loving parent or caregiver in the early years supports healthy brain development that forms the foundation for success later at school and in life - and one of the best ways of engaging with young children is through looking at books together. Even the youngest baby loves to be held close and hear the voice of Mom or Dad as they read a book aloud.

Reading aloud promotes language development and early literacy skills

Family reading togetherIt is widely accepted that reading aloud is the single most important researched activity leading to language development and promotes early literacy skills ( 2, 3), such as: 

  • Word sound awareness
  • Book handling and naming
  • Understanding how stories work
  • Recognition of sounds and letters
  • Knowledge of a wide range of vocabulary
  • Ability to listen 

All of these skills are essential as children start school and learn to read. 

Reading aloud:

  • Reading aloud nurtures young childrenBuilds motivation, curiosity and memory
  • Helps children cope during times of stress or anxiety
  • Take children to places and times they have never been - enlarging and enhancing their worlds
  • Creates a positive association with books and reading 

Despite all of the benefits of reading aloud, surveys show that only a half of parents read to their young children daily (2) and less than 10 percent read to their children from infancy (4). Families living in poverty are significantly less likely to read aloud to their infants and toddlers ( 2)

This is where Reach Out and Read comes in!

Reading aloud to infantsAt Reach Out and Read, we believe that ALL families should have the tools and information needed to make reading aloud a daily routine, that ALL children should be given a foundation for success at school and beyond.  

Reach Out and Read doctors and nurse practitioners deliver the program at routine pediatric checkups, so that we have repeated and unparalleled access to families with children from birth through five years. More than 91% of children under the each of six attend well child checkups each year (5). 

Many of the families that Reach Out and Read serves do not have any books at home. We give each child a new developmentally-appropriate book to take home with them - and for those parents, whose first language is not English, we offer books in 12 different languages. Books can even be useful for parents who don't read - we encourage them to talk about the story that the pictures tell. We also encourage partnerships between Reach Out and Read sites and their local libraries, to expand the selection of books available for families to read aloud.

When a trusted doctor or nurse offers guidance about reading aloud to infants, toddlers and preschoolers,  and provides a book to read, parents have an opportunity to give their children the best start in life.

Contact Reach Out and Read
Reach Out and Read National Center
89 South St, Suite 201
Boston, MA 02111