“Reading to children is one of the greatest gifts parents can give them,” said Jenn Berman, Psy.D, a Beverly Hills based family and child therapist and author of “The A to Z Guide to Raising Happy, Confident Kids” (New World Library, 2007). “All of the studies show that children who are read to and who become readers have so many advantages.”
The mother of 4-year-old twins and a regular guest expert on parenting on “The Today Show,” Berman was recently honored with the Molina Literacy Award from the Molina Foundation for her contributions to literacy and early childhood education.
“I believe that every child has a voracious reader lying dormant in them and it’s up to both parents and teachers to inspire them,” she said in a telephone interview. In her new book, “SuperBaby: 12 Ways to Give Your Child a Head Start in the First 3 Years of Life (Sterling, 2010),” Berman outlines six “immediate” benefits of reading on a child’s development based on years of her own research and reading hundreds of studies on how children develop. They include:
*INCREASES VOCABULARY: “Just reading three picture books each week has been shown to increase vocabulary by 15% to 40%,” said Berman. ”The more words a child knows the better they will understand their teacher and have a more positive association with school.
*IMPROVES LISTENING SKILLS: Being read to at home appears to help with listening comprehension, said Berman, who bases her conclusion on a study that tested fourth-graders on this skill: “Since most of the instructions a child receives early in life are oral, they will better understand what their teachers and their parents ask them to do.”
*IMPROVES ATTENTION SPAN AND MEMORY: “The ability to pay attention and the ability to remember facts are interconnected,” she said. “If you are not able to pay attention, there is no way you will remember. The sooner parents start reading out loud to their children the sooner their child will begin to use these mental muscles.”
*HONES READING AND WRITING SKILLS: “According to the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study [conducted by the U.S. Department of Education], children who are read to at least three times a week by a family member are almost twice as likely to score in the top 25% in reading. And in a study published in the Review of Applied Linguistics, students who read more had less fear of writing because of their exceptional grasp on written language,” said Berman.
*BUILDS CREATIVITY AND IMAGINATION: Reading nurtures a child’s ability to think outside the box. Older children who are big readers are more creative than their peers, said Berman. According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NEAP), also known as the ‘nation’s report card,’ the highest-scoring writers “were not those who wrote the most, but those who read the most recreationally and had the most printed materials at home,” she said.
*ENHANCES ENJOYMENT OF BOOKS: Each time you read to your child, you are conditioning his or her brain to make an association between reading and pleasure. It starts when they are infants and as they learn to read themselves, said Berman. “My grandmother read ‘The Secret Garden’ and ‘The Little Princess’ to my mother, who then read them to me, and I in turn will read them to my daughters,” she said. “Reading becomes a multigenerational ritual for a family.”
By Shelley Gabert, Special Advertising Sections Writer