Dustin Bogan, MSPAS, PA-C
There are very few books that have had a profound of effect on me at a personal level. One of the earliest books that I remember is “Love You Forever” by Robert Munsch. I remember listening intently as my grandmother read to me and wondering why she seemed to tear up almost every single time. Then, as I became a preschool teacher and read the very same book, well wouldn’t you know that I teared up myself? I still remember reading “To Kill a Mockingbird” in high school and talking about it with my grandparents, and to this day I still have a copy of “What Doctor’s Feel” that I read in PA school for a humanities class. Books have a way of leaving an impact. For some, it is the book content itself that leaves that mark, but for most books, it is the people who the books are being read with.
Even if you only have a few minutes per day to spend with your child, I encourage you to spend a portion of that time reading to them or reading together. Reading has countless benefits and research is only just beginning to catch on.
Occasionally, as a medical provider, people ask why I take the time to talk about things as simple as reading when we often are focusing on vaccinations, physical injuries, growth patterns, or symptoms of illness. The reason is really quite simple. Reading promotes literacy and is one of the best ways to promote a healthy parent-child relationship.
Per the most current research, children who are read to often:
- Develop stronger vocabularies and have improved literacy rates
- Perform better in school due to improved focus and concentration
- Have improved emotional awareness and stronger bonds with their parents
- Are less likely to develop conditions like ADHD
How do you read to your children? That answer is simple as well.
Reading with children can start in early infancy and looks quite different than what you may expect. “Reading” may involve sitting down for a few minutes with a book and pointing out pictures. It may involve reading your local newspaper out loud around your child and engaging them in conversation, frequent interaction, or even funny sounds. If we are really talking abstract, it may even be as simple as talking to your baby without a book at all. Remember, babies learn more from their parents and caregivers in the first 5 years than we could have ever imagined. Unfortunately, they do not get the same benefit from Sesame Street.
Later on in the toddler years, reading evolves. We start to display books on shelves and mix them in with other toys in the playroom. The key here is that when a child shows interest in a book, we have the opportunity to read through the pages together. It is of course nearly impossible to get toddlers to maintain focus for more than a few minutes at a time, so we may have to break it up throughout the day.
As children begin school, I often encourage a set “quiet” time that allows them to focus on puzzles, coloring, and of course reading in order to prepare them for establishing a homework routine. Parents can easily join in on reading and quiet time as they are able and read separate books or even read the same book and discuss it together.
I know that as a teenager myself, it was very hard to read a book that was given to me in a particular class or by a particular teacher despite now enjoying some of those very same books reading for pleasure. The thing that helped me the most was having my dad or my grandparents ask me about what I was reading. Parents and friends can help with assigned reading by simply being aware of what is being assigned. By asking questions about the book and promoting discussion, children and teens are more likely to finish their school-required reading.
Reading is such a valuable opportunity for parents to bond with their children, but it can also be a place for teenagers to read to their siblings. This allows kids to bond themselves and not just with our parents around. When teens choose to read, they are less likely to rely on television, tablets, and cell phones.
I encourage you to check out your local library for a few books to read with your kids. If you are just getting started on your journey as a parent, I encourage you to look into programs like Dolly Parton’s Imagination library that will allow a free book to be delivered monthly up until your child starts kindergarten. Lastly, remember books make great gifts for charity drives as well throughout the holiday season.
Happy reading, and for more information check out some of the links below:
Image courtesy of: Firefly Books, Robert Munsch, and Sheila McGraw