If you’re an early childhood professional, reading to children is probably already on your agenda. For some children, your classroom may be the only place they get this experience. According to a 2019 study in the United States, nationally representative data suggests that around 25% of caregivers never read with their children, creating a “word gap.” Cumulatively, over the five years before kindergarten, researchers estimate that children from literacy-rich homes hear approximately 1.4 million more words during storybook reading than children who are never read to.
Reading to children supports school readiness in an incredible amount of ways. In addition to phonemic awareness and reading comprehension, hearing stories expands children’s vocabulary as they encounter words that may not be used in their daily lives. It also aids their creativity and imagination when they hear stories, visualizing new environments and guessing what’s coming next. Even further, children’s social and emotional development is boosted when hearing stories about challenging experiences or potentially emotional situations, like starting at a new school or resolving conflict between two characters.
All children can benefit from having a caregiver read to them. Here are some tips for how to make the most of story time with each age group to help children develop skills and gain a life-long love for reading. These tips are good to use both in the classroom and at home — each environment should encourage reading to help close the word gap.
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