Research shows the benefits of reading to children

Long before they become literate, children learn and develop language through adult reading.

The development of language in childhood is a complex and long process, which takes place from the baby’s first interactions and is made up of all the different experiences with the language. Children learn to speak from what they hear, from the words, expressions and forms of communication of the people around them. That is, adults are an essential part of language learning in childhood.

However, in everyday life our language is limited, and even more limited when we speak to the little ones. So how can we ensure that children have enriching language experiences so that they develop their communication skills in the best possible way?

Researchers from Barcelona conducted a research into the role of reading from adults to children and confirmed that listening to written stories in childhood provides a learning process not normally found in everyday life. Read more below!

“Learning from adult reading”

This is the title of the article written by the researchers Ana Teberosky and Angelica Sepúlveda, from the University of Barcelona. The study aimed to analyze the practice of reading aloud and its effects on children, and we spoke to one of the authors about the key findings.

Angelica Sepúlveda started her academic career in speech therapy at the National University of Colombia, specializing in educational psychology with a master’s and doctorate degree from the University of Barcelona. With research on the development of oral communication, reading and writing, Angelica has been in Brazil for 7 years and participates in the development of research projects and educational innovation in the Education Laboratorywhich carries out actions aimed at enriching and qualifying language in childhood.

The role of adults in language development

For Angelica, language development in childhood is a fascinating process: the child is immersed in a continuum of interactions and gradually manages to understand what language is and what it serves. Use language to ask for water, food and play, both in contact with adults and other children.

For this learning, the amount of interactionsas well as their quality. Angelica and Ana’s research cites a study showing that most expressions in everyday life do not offer great linguistic richness and do not require production from the child.

“Only 15% of everything that is said to children has canonical constructions, i.e. with subject, verb and object, which is a complete structure of the language. This is too little. In everyday interaction, our language is very limited, so we have to make a conscious choice to enrich our language experience offer for children,” says Angelica.

Unique advantages of booking

Mother with daughters reading aloud

There are numerous studies showing that the children’s books it is a form of contact with language that enables learning beyond the child’s everyday experiences.

In her article Angelica quotes the researcher Gordon Wellswho investigated what happens to children who have the opportunity to listen to books that have been read. The conclusion is that they have a richer vocabulary, develop a more complex language and can create more elaborate narratives.

In addition, these children learned to read and write more easily, developed better reading comprehension and better presentation skills better school performance.

Much later research continues to prove these positive effects. In Barcelona, ​​Angelica monitored the effects of reading on the production of written texts and concluded that children can write longer texts and learn the codes of writing conventions more easily.

“Books help not only with oral language acquisition, but also with writing, and not only with reading comprehension, but also with production,” explains the researcher.

Why is reading aloud so important?

father reads baby

According to Angelica, waiting for the child to be literate to get in touch with literature is a waste of time and very valuable opportunities.

“When children hear stories, they have the opportunity to read a lot of texts before they are an autonomous reader and that makes all the difference,” he defends.

The small child who hears the reading is, in a sense, also reading. In the sense that they listen to written language and understand what is being read.

Children also practice learning through repetition and imitation. Just as they like to watch a video multiple times or listen to a song multiple times, they also ask to listen to the same story multiple times.

And even for older children who can already read independently, it’s still important to enjoy adult reading. That’s because they look at and learn from a more experienced reader, always benefiting from that interaction.

How to enrich the reading experience?

According to Angelica’s experience with language practices in childhood, two points are important to enrich children’s repertoire and encourage a positive relationship with reading: the diversity and naturalness of these experiences. In other words, create varied opportunities for contact with books and texts, and in an appropriate way, which is not mandatory or unpleasant for children.

“You good children’s books are made for an audience we call double: for adults who select and read them, and for children. For a good literature book, both the adult and the child have a good literary experience,” the researcher defends.

Here are tips to make reading even richer:

1. Have availability

It’s not good to start reading if you have to finish it in 10 minutes because of another commitment. Set aside a special time to read to the child where you can be 100% present in that interaction.

two. Surrender to the story:

If the adult is willing to read, he will interact with the text authentically: he will be surprised, laugh if it is funny, or get serious and respond authentically. This makes the difference that the child is also interested in the story.

3. Beware of Interruptions:

Reading doesn’t have to be a lesson. Don’t stop the story to explain unless the child asks. This allows the reader to enter into relationships themselves.

4. Stimulate Natural Conversations:

After reading, talk to the child about the story. Tell her your impressions, what you liked the most or not, and listen to what she has to say.

5. Re-read, re-read and re-read:

One reading experience is never the same as another. Reading the same book multiple times has different effects on the child, especially over time, promoting new reflections and learning.

6. Discover new formats:

The bigger the diversity of language experiences the child has access, the better. Digital platforms offer new ways to listen to lectures, such as storytelling videos and podcasts. They are usually lectures done by specialists, with different intonations and gestures not found in family lectures, further enriching the child’s repertoire.

Read at home, every month

With the aim of helping families create good reading experiences in childhood, in the Club Inside History children become characters from personalized children’s books and receive their own exclusive reading packs, with activities and games that complement learning.

All this according to expert indications, according to the age group of the child. Click here to discover the Reading Club and have new experiences with your little one!


Angelica Sepulveda

Speech therapist at the National University of Colombia. PhD in Educational Psychology from the University of Barcelona. Employee at the Education Laboratory (NGO, São Paulo).

This text was chosen for recommendation in the campaign about: the importance of reading in childhood of the educational publishing house twinkle.

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