The Powerful Gift of Reading to Your Child

Parents who read to their children give them a gift of time, love, and literacy.What do Llama, Llama, Red Pajama and Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus and Goodnight Moon all have in common?

Children love them! In homes across the country, these are some of the books parents or grandparents are reading to children while cuddled up together.

What makes children’s books like these so popular? For one, they’re fun to read out loud.

But is fun the only good reason to read to your child?

Let’s find out.

Rhyme, Rhythm, and Repetition

What’s not to love about the rollicking, rhyming rhythm of a good children’s book? Like—

I do not like them, Sam-I-am. I do not like green eggs and ham.
-Dr. Seuss in Green Eggs and Ham

Llama llama red pajama calls down to his llama mama.
-Ann Dewdney in Llama Llama Red Pajama

Think of the way those sing-song lines will sink into your child’s mind—especially between birth and three, when he’s a little language sponge.

Kids naturally listen for sounds they can recognize and repeat them. When your child hears rhymes, he will learn to predict what will come next—almost like he’s reading. That makes him feel smarter and more engaged with a book. As he grows, rhymes can also help him start connecting letter shapes to sounds.

Rhythm in a book helps your child “get the beat” of spoken language. Together, rhyme and rhythm turn language into music.

Repetition makes words feel familiar to your child. Like a favorite blanket or the sound of your voice, repeated phrases make him feel comfortable. And feeling comfortable with reading helps him want to read more.

  • Why read to your child? Your young child’s mind is soaking up language. When you read aloud to your child, you give him the sounds and words and rhythm of language. He’ll need that language to succeed in life.

What Do the Pictures Say?

During Children’s Authors and Illustrators Week, we asked up-and-coming author/illustrator (and experienced mom/teacher) Marit Rheinheimer about the books she and her son Owen read together.

“We love the ones with amazing illustrations that cover more than the words do,” Marit said. “There's always more to the story in the pictures.” Great pictures give parents and children something to talk about—another benefit of reading together.

Marit recommends books by Mo Willems: “His books are completely simple yet hilarious. He uses a lot of expressions, so Owen can read the characters’ emotions by their faces. We can even see how their speech bubbles will be really big if a character is shouting, or really small if he's whispering. They’re good for teaching kids the emotional piece of characters and their friendships.”

Speaking of illustrations, we asked Marit how she learned to make the baby yaks in her own book show their feelings. She said, “That’s challenging. But it's amazing what eyebrow shapes can do!”

Marit Rheinheimer tries to capture the feelings of a young yak in her coming children's book.
Marit Rheinheimer tries to capture the feelings of a young yak in her coming children's book.

  • Why read to your child? Books help you talk with your child about feelings, relationships, and life beyond his usual experiences.

Reading is “Me Time”

Redwood Falls' Children’s Librarian, Jill Deinken, told us, “Parents are pulled in so many directions now, and reading tends to be one of those things that gets pushed to the back if you don't think you have enough time. But if you're going to anything with your kids, reading’s the one thing you should be doing.”

Other experts, like Dr. Pamela High of the American Academy of Pediatrics agree: “What reading does for very young children is it gives them a time when they pretty much have the undivided attention of their parents.”

  • Why read to your child? Sitting still to read together helps you two bond. Doing it regularly teaches your child he can count on you.

Children's Librarian Jill Deinken of Redwood Falls Public Library encourages parents to read to their children.
At Redwood Falls Public Library, Children's Librarian Jill Deinken hosts a variety of fun activities for parents and their children.

Jill encourages parents to visit Redwood Falls Public Library at 509 S. Lincoln Street, to try out some of the book-related activities she puts together. Here are a few:

  • Check out up to 25 books at a time. (Yes, 25!)
  • Bring your children from 0-5 years old to Preschool Story Hour, every Tuesday at 10:30am.
  • Explore the interactive play spaces. Try the games, play with the trains, and enjoy the indoor and outdoor play areas.
  • Join the 1000 Books before Kindergarten Get a free book just for signing up. You’ll earn prizes for every 25 and 100 books you read together. Reach 1000 books, and you’ll get a pizza party! (You can even count a book more than once if your child wants to hear it over again!)
  • Take home a PlayAway bag, full of books, craft items, and a recorded reading device.
  • Ask your librarian about how to sign up for the Imagination Library program and receive a free book every month.
  • Check out a STEM backpack. The puzzles, games, and books will be fun to explore together.

STEM Backpacks offer ways for parents to read with children.
STEM Backpacks offer ways for parents to read with children while doing fun activities.

If you’re a parent who doubts your own reading skills, you can still encourage reading in your child. Jill says, “Just going through a book and talking about the pictures is incredibly valuable. If there are books you loved when you were little, that's valuable, too. If you’re excited about reading, your children are going to be excited as well.”

For children's activities at the Marshall-Lyon County Library, click here.

5 Good Reasons to Read to Your Child

Reading is one of the best ways to give your child a strong start in life. Everything Marit and Jill and the other experts have said shows us there are 5 big benefits to reading. We’ve summed them up in this infographic:

Infographic: 5 good answers to the question "Why read to your child?"

Earn Free Books While You Learn

And remember, parents who belong to the Earn While You Learn program at Choices Pregnancy Center, can earn Baby Bucks, good for all kinds of things you and your child need from our Boutique—counting books!

Use free Baby Bucks to get great books to read to your child.
Use free Baby Bucks in our Boutique to get great books to read to your child.

So go get reading!