Young children are incredibly observant. Every day, they pick up cues and learn from their environment in countless ways. As a parent, one of the best ways to capitalize on this important life stage and set your kids up for success is to read to them on a regular basis. Reading to children has numerous benefits, including the following.

The Facilitation of Language Learning

Children’s language learning and vocabulary development comes from the conversations that they overhear (most often those of their caregivers), shows they watch on television and from books that they read or have read to them. Since many books include words that most people do not often use in conversation, hearing a story provides the opportunity for your child to learn those words in context. The benefits of having a strong grasp of language and a well-developed vocabulary extend well beyond early childhood: they will last throughout the teen years and into adulthood.

Improved Attention Span

Studies show that the average attention span has decreased in recent years, likely due to the proliferation of smart technologies. Unlike playing games on a tablet or smartphone or watching a kid-friendly TV show, listening to a story forces kids to listen carefully and remain focused for extended periods of time. Even if it seems as though your child loses interest in any given book fairly quickly, don’t give up hope: regular practice will help him or her to develop the ability to sit still and retain important details.

Learning of Life Lessons

Stories that have a clear moral help children to develop important qualities like empathy and compassion. Try interacting with your child as you read. For instance, when a character faces a difficult decision, ask your son or daughter questions like, “What do you think the character should do now?” or “What would you do if you were in this situation?” If your child is about to face a new, potentially scary experience such as starting school or visiting the dentist for the first time, reading him or her a book that deals with the topic is a good way to make the prospect seem less unfamiliar or threatening.

The benefits of reading to your child are endless, and it is never too early to start. Ask your child’s teacher for book recommendations or visit your local library to browse age-appropriate titles. You’ll probably find story time to be a wonderful opportunity for bonding. Good luck, and have fun!