Reading is for Babies

Preface: If you can slip into the freeway stream before 5 pm (Phoenix time), you might, on a good day, lead the rush hour pack, and you will, almost every day, catch some of NPR’s best stories on “All Things Considered.” After 5, expect heavy traffic and heavier crises. If only the people in those crises could be fortified by the pre-5  conversations like the rest of us. Recently, we had Horace Silver’s obituary. (Didn’t know his name, but his music? Absolutely.) Another day, another musical theme: an introduction to polyrhythms.

Father reading to baby The real topic: Yesterday, Audie Cornish interviewed Professor Susan Neuman about the American Pediatrics Association’s latest immunization promotion: “Immunize your children against illiteracy.” Research continues to confirm that reading to children matters, with new evidence that the younger you start, the better. Reading is even for babies. The benefits range from the earliest vocabulary development though later achievements.


Some of my toddler memories include my dad reading me Dr. Seuss and, I kid you not, The Wall Street Journal, and my mom reading me a chapter of Johanna Spyri’s Heidi before every nap.

Reading with my own children was even more fun. My first toddler was barely forming two-word sentences when he announced from his car seat, “No, Pat! No, Pat!” He was pointing to a cactus, alluding to Dr. Seuss: “No, Pat, no! Don’t sit on that!” My younger son, by 3 or 4 spoke fluent King James, holding a book, pretending to read, making up stories and admonitions with archaic verb tenses and expressions, never confusing it with our colloquial English.

Reading is not only for babies. Jim Trelease (The Read-Aloud Handbook) suggests that teens wash dishes while parents read aloud. Talk about a Win-Win. The Phantom Tollbooth made a favorite dish-time hit.

Reading obviously benefits brain development, language acquisition, and academic achievements, but what I love most about reading/being read to, in classrooms and families, is the social development, between the literature and the readers, and the readers amongst themselves.

  • Empathy: reading another’s mind, walking in others’ shoes, experiencing other ages, places, cultures, and times.
  • Common vocabulary, allusions, characters, and private jokes, instantly conveying a concept or strengthening a relationship.
  • It’s hard to read and argue at the same time. (Certain people can pull it off—it helps to be attached to the literal, as in high-functioning autism—but imagine where such a person would be without literature and those ensuing discussions.)

What is your favorite reading benefit? Your favorite memory of communal reading?


Text © Gwyn Nichols 2014. All rights reserved.

Photo © Liza McCorkle. iStockPhoto.

Want a More Effective Brain?

Do you think of your brain as a tool? Or have you confused your brain, your processes, your thoughts with your very being? You are not your brain, yet exercising your brain can do wonders for your experience of life, and your writing as well. Here are ten ways to stretch your brain:

Personally, I like Art Kramer’s advice: “Ide­ally, com­bine both phys­i­cal and men­tal stim­u­la­tion along with social inter­ac­tions. Why not take a good walk with friends to dis­cuss a book?” Yes!

And for a real breakthrough in learning, find a Brain Gym teacher.


Text © Gwyn Nichols 2012. All rights reserved.