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Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.
Dr. Schwartz's Weblog

Some Thoughts on the Importance of Reading to Your Children

Allan N. Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. Updated: May 15th 2008

 It has been intuitively known for many years that reading aloud to young children promotes a love of reading and prepares them for school. Now, there is evidence to support those beliefs.

The results of a study were published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood. Young children whose parents read aloud to them went on to have better language development, literacy skills, and a love of reading by the time they entered school compared to those children who were not read to.

The study also supported something that I have long believed is an important component of how parents read to children and that is that the reading process is interactive in nature and fun.

Interactive reading means that the child is able to ask questions, look at and explain the pictures in the book, explain the meaning of the story and have the opportunity to talk about what has been read to them. The parent asking questions further promotes thinking and comprehension skills.

Based on my experience I believe it is important to emphasize some key aspects of this process as well as some things for parents to avoid:

1. Reading aloud to the child should be a fun experience that is looked forward to.

2. Children have creative minds and they are very liable to elaborate on the story, insert their own story line and become very imaginative: It is important that this not be discouraged. I am aware that some parents turn reading aloud into a "school type of experience" in which they are looking for "correct answers to questions and to the meaning of the story." I cannot think of a better way to discourage a love of learning and turning the experience into something that is very negative.

3. Children will interrupt the reading with thousands of questions and this is perfectly fine and not to be discouraged.

4. Parental patience is enormously important and it is easier to be relaxed and patient if there are no expectations other than to have fun.

5. Children love to hear the same story repeatedly and this is also perfectly fine and good. If a story is loved, why not read it repeatedly?

6. Set a time limit on the reading so that you leave the child wanting more. Pushing the child to listen and participate longer than they wish is counter productive. Make this a child centered activity.

7. Going to the library or book store with the child is a nice way to supplement the reading and story telling activity.

Have fun.

Your comments are welcome.

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D.

Readers who live in the Boulder, Colorado metro area, or in Southwest Florida may contact Dr. Schwartz for face-to-face consultation. He is also available for psychotherapy through Skype video for those who are not in Florida or Colorado. He can be reached via email at for details.

Reader Comments
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Great Connection Between Mental Health and the Experience of Reading with A Child - Cathy Puett Miller - Nov 13th 2009

I have long believed that reading aloud is bigger than the book.  Thanks for sharing your insight which confirms this.  It's a message that desperately needs to be shared.

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