MAYWOOD, Ill. – A mother snuggling a newborn in her arms reading “Goodnight Moon” is an image of serene beauty, but is there any developmental benefit in reading to a newborn?
“Spending quality time and bonding with your infant are always important, no matter what the activity is. But with reading, the benefits increase since infants are auditory learners,” said Hannah Chow, MD, assistant professor, Department of Pediatrics, Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine. “By talking and reading to your baby, he or she learns about communication and how to interact with other people.”
According to Chow, reading to children at a young age also:
• Encourages a passion for books and learning
• Improves a child’s concentration, which improves attention in school
• Stimulates creativity and imagination
• Improves vocabulary
“Although reading books to children is wonderful when infants are small, it’s not so much what you read, but how you read it. Reading the Wall Street Journal? Read it out loud to your newborn using voice inflection and interacting with him or her while you read. It’s a wonderful chance to just be together and get some reading in, too,” Chow said.
As children age, what you read becomes more important. According to Chow, infants and toddlers enjoy staring at people, especially babies, so try to find books that are colorful and simple with lots of pictures and few words. As they become toddlers, ensuring that books are durable becomes paramount as they will get banged on the floor and chewed on by the toddler.
“Most toddlers don’t want to sit still while you read an entire book, so read part of the story, let him or her wander off and explore for a while and then return to the story a little later. Just be sure you make it purposeful and a part of their routine,” Chow said. “Let your kids pick which book they want to read and if it’s the same one over and over and over again, just keep reading it. Kids learn from repetition.”
She also suggests having books with you at all times. When you have downtime, such as riding in the car or sitting in a waiting room, you have a great activity for your child.
Though reading in and of itself is a wonderful habit, the most important part of the activity is the quality time it gives parents with their kids.
“Interact with your kids while reading. Ask them questions about the words or pictures. It’s fascinating what kids are interested in and the amount of detail they can remember,” Chow said. “Kids mimic their parents’ behavior. If reading is a priority for you, if they see you picking up a book instead of turning on the TV, they will most likely do it, too.”
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Based in the western suburbs of Chicago, Loyola University Health System is a quaternary care system with a 61-acre main medical center campus, the 36-acre Gottlieb Memorial Hospital campus and 28 primary and specialty care facilities in Cook, Will and DuPage counties. The medical center campus is conveniently located in Maywood, 13 miles west of the Chicago Loop and 8 miles east of Oak Brook, Ill. The heart of the medical center campus, Loyola University Hospital, is a 569-licensed-bed facility. It houses a Level 1 Trauma Center, a Burn Center and the Ronald McDonald® Children’s Hospital of Loyola University Medical Center. Also on campus are the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, Loyola Outpatient Center, Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine and Loyola Oral Health Center as well as the LUC Stritch School of Medicine, the LUC Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing and the Loyola Center for Fitness. Loyola’s Gottlieb Memorial Hospital campus in Melrose Park includes the 264-bed community hospital, the Gottlieb Center for Fitness and the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Care Center.