Why "reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body" is true, especially in kids

During a recent dinner conversation with colleagues, our discussion turned from talking about our current projects to favourite kids books. I was a little shocked that someone else brought up Ferdinand the Bull – one of the top 5 from my childhood.

Can you remember your favourite book from when you were starting to read? Have you developed any new favourites while raising kids?

Not surprisingly, new research has shown that reading books with a child starting in early infancy and through the preschool years can have an impact on language, literacy and early reading skills when they enter Kindergarten.

Here’s the main dish:

  • 250 pairs of mothers & newborns were monitored from when the children were 6-months to 4.5-years for word comprehension, early literacy and reading skills
  • The researchers noted the quantity (e.g., how many books were in the home) and quality (e.g., did parents label pictures or emotions of characters?) of shared book reading
  • After accounting for socio-economic differences, reading quality and quantity of shared book reading before age 2 predicted children’s vocabulary before they started school.
  • Book reading quality during infancy predicted early reading skills
  • The number of books read and the quality of book reading during toddlerhood were both tied to preschooler literacy skills (e.g., being able write their name)

What does this mean for you?

You likely already know that reading to little ones is important, so here are some tips that you may find helpful:

  • This infographic I saw at a local bookstore is amazing! Kudos to Chapters/Indigo for putting this together and placing it in their children’s section. I would suggest using this as a guide when you are at bookstore or library when selecting books, but also try out their tips on how to best read with your child at various ages.
  • Recent research (though with a small number of children) has shown that children understand and learn equally from picture books vs. digital books. Don’t be afraid to mix it up and read stories on your tablet.


Happy Reading!