We all know that reading to kids is important. Now there is more research to back up this “chicken soup for the brain” of little kids.
According to Jessica L. Montag, a researcher in the Department of Psychology of the University of California, Riverside, and her colleagues, Michael N. Jones and Linda B. Smith, reading, as opposed to talking to children, is important because reading exposes children to many more new words than they would hear from spoken language alone.
Montag took 100 picture books which appear on lists of excellent books for children. She analyzed the words in those books. Then she compared the words with spoken language of caregivers talking to little children. Her research was published in August.
What she found is that the books use more words and different kinds of words than do parents, teachers and caregivers of young children. In fact, the books use 70% more unique words than did the speech. Also, the text provides different types of sentences, sentences of varying complexity, and sentences of different lengths. The books introduce topics outside the parents’ and children’s normal lives, exposing children to new ideas and the vocabulary associated with those new ideas.
So if you’re tempted to skip the reading some days, or to just look at the pictures, think again. The text is important to growing a child’s vocabulary, and a large vocabulary is associated with successful independent reading.