World Book Day: 4 reasons why reading is good for kids

World Book Day 2020 aims to raise awareness of how important reading can be for children. (Rawpixel pic)

Thursday, March 5 is World Book Day and here is a round up of ways that reading a good book can improve the well-being and development of children and teenagers.

1. It can improve toddlers’ behaviour

A US study published last year found that parents who regularly read with their toddlers are less likely to be overly harsh with their children, while the children are more likely to be better behaved.

After looking at 2,165 mother-child pairs from across the States, the researchers found that frequently reading with children at age one was associated with less harsh parenting at age three, and frequent shared reading with children at age three was associated with less harsh parenting at age five.

In addition, the mothers who read frequently with their children also reported that their children were less hyperactive or disruptive, which may partially explain the reduction in harsh parenting behaviours.

2. It can improve academic performance

European research published in February this year suggested that children and teens who read a good quality book daily may benefit from improved academic performance at school.

The large-scale study looked at questionnaire responses from more than 43,000 Spanish children which asked them about how much they read, what they read, and their academic performance at school at 10 to 11 and again at age 13 to 14.

The findings showed that the more frequently children read quality books at age 10 to 11, the better they performed in school tests at age 13 to 14, compared to those who read books almost never.

However, the same results were not found for reading comics, short stories, newspapers and magazines, which according to the researchers highlights the importance of encouraging young people to find time to sit down and read a good book.

3. It can improve children’s English

If you don’t speak English at home, then reading to your children in your mother tongue could still improve their reading skills in English, according to a study published last year.

Researchers from the University of Delaware looked at 312 Spanish‐speaking bilingual children, and found that those who had strong reading skills in their native Spanish when they started kindergarten were better at reading English from kindergarten through to fourth grade.

Their English reading skills even outperformed those of Spanish-speaking children who were more fluent in speaking English, but less proficient in reading Spanish.

The researchers say that the findings suggest that reading to young children in any language will teach them skills that will help them in the classroom and help them learn to read in English.

4. It can improve children’s receptive language skills

A UK study which reviewed 40 years of reading intervention studies from the USA, South Africa, Canada, Israel and China, found that children who were read to at a young age showed improved receptive language skills, which is the ability to understand information.

The average age of the children involved in the studies was 39 months, with the researchers finding that reading to children at around this age, before they start pre-school, could boost their receptive language skills by eight months, which they say is a big difference for children under the age of five.

The children who were read to also showed smaller but still positive improvements in their expressive language, which is how a child puts their thoughts into words such as vocabulary and grammar, and pre-reading skills, such as how words are structured.