We've all heard the phrase, "reading is fundamental." But sometimes, we may not really understand just how true the phrase is. Reading, especially for children, has so many benefits that we don't even consider. One of the biggest ones is the exposure to language and vocabulary. Before being able to read on their own, children often learn so much language and vocabulary from being read to. And now, new research confirms the "million-word gap" — which is the difference between the amount of words children who aren't read to will not hear before kindergarten.
The study is led by assistant professor of educational studies at The Ohio State University, Jessica Logan. What it found is that children whose parents read them five books a day go into kindergarten knowing 1.4 million more words than kids whose parents don't read to them at all. Some parents may not have the time to read their kids five books a day. Life is busy, and if you work late hours or have other children, that may not be realistic for your family. But even just reading your toddlers and preschoolers just one story a night has its benefits. They will still learn approximately 290,000 more words than kids who aren't read to at all.
"Kids who hear more vocabulary words are going to be better prepared to see those words in print when they enter school,"says Logan, who is also a member of Ohio State's Crane Center for Early Childhood Research and Policy.
Logan and her team based this study on previous research she had conducted. That study found that one-fourth of a national sample of kids were never read to. Additionally, another fourth were read to once or twice a week. So, the team worked with the Columbus Metropolitan Library to examine the 100 books most frequently circulated for toddlers and preschoolers. After they calculated the average amount of words per book, they were able to create an approximate amount of words a child could hear before they were five, depending on how often they were read to.
Logan's study piggybacks off a 1992 study that gave the impression children in poverty hear 30 million fewer words than more privileged kids. Lower income families most certainly have less access to books, but even more privileged parents may not be taking the time to read to their children.
"The words kids hear from books may have special importance in learning to read," Logan says.
Yes, five books a day may be practically impossible. But incorporating a bedtime story into your nighttime routine will send your toddlers and preschoolers up for more long-term success.