10 Benefits of Reading Aloud to Kids, According to Science

"Reading should not be presented to children as a chore or duty. It should be offered to them as a precious gift."
— Kate DiCamillo

Benefits of Reading Aloud to Kids

Here at the library, we love reading to kids and think everyone should do it. We promise it isn't just a ploy to drive up circulation.

Reading is good for everybody, and it's paramount for the development and future success of all young children. Did you know that there are scientifically proven benefits of reading to children? And if you have older kids, we've got something for them, too.

The U.S. Department of Health says infants learn to speak long before they say their first words. An essential part of this development is hearing words spoken aloud. It's not just the quantity of words that matters, but also the variation and diversity of vocabulary, sentence structure and grammar that books provide compared to conversational language alone.

The National Association for the Education of Young Children recommends reading aloud to young children while expanding the activity for even more learning opportunities.

Expanded activities can include:

  • Pausing to explain things.
  • Allowing time for curious kids to ask questions.
  • Giving them a chance to read some or all of the story to you.
  • Relating things in the reading to real-life news or events.

These activities can be done all at once or increased over time as you build your reading-aloud toolbox and your children's skills develop.

Numerous scientific research studies have shown that reading to infants and toddlers gives them an unparalleled head-start on language learning, social skills and more. The American Association of Pediatrics has published multiple research studies detailing the benefits of reading to children. These studies have helped pediatricians support and encourage families to promote early literacy in their households. They cite benefits including:

  • Improved academic performance.
  • Increased critical thinking and problem-solving skills.
  • Stronger language and communication skills.
  • Positive socialization and empathy.

These benefits significantly increase among the children studied whose families read to them regularly. Other benefits include:

  • Developing a stronger bond with your child.
  • Increased concentration, memory and self-discipline.
  • Decreased screen time.
  • Developing a thirst for knowledge.
  • Diversity in experiences and people or places they might not otherwise encounter.
  • Increased creativity.

All children need to feel that they can trust and depend on their caregivers, and few things can fulfill this need better than spending time with them. Reading to your child gives them your undivided attention and demonstrates reliability in our changing world. 

Fact: Young children rarely sit still for long.

Regular reading times encourage kids to learn how to pay attention for more extended periods (so they can concentrate on the stories they love). Reading is an exercise for the imagination, and children will have more opportunities to explore ideas and perspectives outside their own. Have you ever wanted to cry out in frustration after hearing "I'm bored"? Kids who enjoy reading are less likely to be bored as they constantly learn, explore and grow in literature.

Check out these books for kids our librarians recommend as read-aloud options. Furthermore, children who are read to by important individuals in their life will associate reading with fun, comfort and enjoyment, encouraging them to grow into adults who love reading. Looking to get started? Here is a reading log to track each day you spend reading aloud with your kids.

Benefits of Reading Aloud with Teens

That was a lot of information. Do you feel this would have been nice 10 years ago before your kids became electronics aficionados? Sure, but it is never too late to start, we promise. Are you here for the information on reading aloud and the benefits for teenagers? 

  1. Bonding Time      
    • Reading aloud with teens at the most basic level provides a time to connect and bond unrelated to the usual discussions in the house. When you read with teens (you to them or them to you), you can create positive moments and memories that will bring you closer together. 
    • Utilize moments when they are captive audiences (like while they are doing the dishes or folding clothing) to foster this bonding. 
    • Spend whatever time you can afford to make this a repeating event in the home. Reading after dinner or while a child or partner prepares dinner is a good start. 
  2. Conversation Starter      
    • Using books as a starting point for tough topics is a great way to make awkward conversations less awkward.
    • Never know what they are thinking or doing? Have your teen choose a few things to read, then allow them to share their opinions. It can be a magazine article, religious passage, newspaper story, draft of an ELA project, or whatever they choose.
  3. Common Shared Experiences      
    • Try to keep your knee-jerk reactions to a minimum when they share to encourage the conversation to flow. It is hard not to give them all of your life's anecdotes, but make sure they are the star here and feel that their opinions are valid (even if they don't quite align with your thinking). We like to sneak in opportunities to discuss family values, morals, and boundary-setting in our homes. 
  4. Creates Fun and Entertainment       
    • Teens are often very funny and entertaining at this age once they relax. They are used to the home's traditional caregiver and child roles, and this new shared experience and activity can create an entirely new place to test their conversation skills. 
    • Many teens are busy and not often asked to share their experiences and opinions. When you allow them to have an equal share in an activity, they might surprise you and teach you some new jargon or share something trendy you can impress other adults with. Ask them to share their current favorites with you, and you can reciprocate. 
  5. Time is Not Infinite       
    • Your babies are growing up (also, never call them that). Have you begun the empty nest math countdown yet? It will go by very fast for us grown folks. 
    • Start now. Yes, today. Get out there and read to those teens! Blame the library. We have your back.

Here is a printable list of the 5 Benefits of Reading with Teens, along with some books to read aloud with teens

But wait, there's more!

Did we forget to mention that numerous studies show many benefits for adults who also regularly read? In the end, reading to young kids benefits everyone, so pick some books to read with the kids in your life today. If you need even more tips on supporting and encouraging early literacy, check out our guide and other handy resources on our Kids page.

In Summary...

  1. Read to your children. All ages (yes, all ages, scroll up) can be and should be read to regularly to help not only your familial bond but to give your kid the best possible foundation for a wonderful life.
  2. Read to teens, and they will surprise you. Okay, you might have to deal with some eye rolls, but we promise it will pay off.
  3. Allow your family to read to you. Listen to audiobooks. Let your beginning readers make up stories and tell them to you if they cannot yet read. Attend poetry readings; it all counts and can help increase your mental bandwidth and add metaphorical glitter to your life creating new neuron pathways and extending the elasticity of your brain.  
  4. Print this PDF to track the days you spend reading aloud. 
  5. Check out these read-aloud booklists for kids and teens.