Why all parents should read to their children


March 1, 2017

Parents can carve out bonding time and stimulate minds while reading to their children.


One of my favorite times of day is reading to my boys at bedtime. We settle into our rocking chair, snuggle in tight and immerse ourselves in stories of pirate adventures, mysterious ninja warriors, friendship and love.

Here are just a few reasons why reading to your children can be so spectacular:

  • The bonding experience: Even from a young age, your child will enjoy the time spent with you cuddling, listening to your voice, looking at bright, colorful pictures in the comfort of your lap.
  • Building their vocabularies and alphabet recognition skills: You can encourage even the littlest readers to point at objects, your toddlers to find particular letters, and your older children to sound out words and explain what they mean. This improves comprehension and communication skills and builds self-confidence as they enter their school years. One of our boys gets so excited to point out the red balloon during our nightly reading of “Goodnight Moon.”
  • Encouraging their imaginations: Stories also encourage children’s imaginations. We discovered a book called “Journey that consists entirely of pictures. My boys had the best time coming up with story lines to go with the illustrations.
  • Relating to others: Books can help children explore other cultures and understand other ways of thinking. They can also help your child develop empathy for others. We often finish our story time by asking our children questions like “What happened in the story?”, “What was the lesson to be learned?” and “How do you think you would feel if that happened to you?” Asking questions is an excellent way to learn about how your child thinks about things.
  • Anticipating new experiences: Many books also help children prepare for transitions and new experiences. For instance, when our oldest was about to become a big brother and move into his new big-boy bed, a book helped him become familiar with that transition. When our middle child started preschool, it was great for him to read about others who had done the same so he wasn’t so scared on his first day.
  • Good manners: Reading through a story helps children work on skills such as paying attention, sitting still, displaying patience and trying not to interrupt.
  • Encouraging an early love for learning: Books open up your mind to ideas and thoughts and those are the most basic building blocks of any subject to be learned in school and in life.

Nashville and the surrounding area has a fantastic public library system, and most of the library branches have special hours in their children’s sections for story hour. Winter is the perfect opportunity to check them out.

Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library and the Governor’s Books from Birth Foundation have partnered to create a phenomenal program where children from infancy to age 5 receive one age-appropriate book per month. How exciting for children to find things in the mailbox with their names on them.

For the holidays, a book is a great for a stocking stuffer or as a gift under the tree. Some of our favorites are “The Runaway Bunny,” “I Love You Stinky Face,” “The Very Hungry Caterpillar,” any of the Little Critter books, the Elephant and Piggie series, Berenstein Bears, “The Little Engine that Could,” “The Giving Tree” (or anything else by Shel Silverstein), the Henry and Mudge series, and the Mercy Watson series.

Whatever books become your child’s favorites, the whole experience of reading – especially with you – will be a blessing throughout their lives and yours.

This post was written by Maya Neeley, M.D., a board-certified pediatrician specializing in hospital medicine at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt. She adores her husband and four young boys and loves spending time with family and good friends.