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How Does Reading 20 Minutes a Day Affect Your Child?

Mystery, historical, fantasy, science fiction, romance: it doesn’t matter what genre it is; reading 20 minutes a day can affect a child’s life.

Starting in kindergarten, if students read 20 minutes a day at home, they will hear 1.8 million words per year. They will have read for 851 hours by 6th grade.

In 1987 a study was conducted by Nagy and Herman. The results were astonishing. For the time commitment of just 20 minutes per day spent reading, students scored in the 90th percentile on standardised tests. 

This is compelling data on the benefits of encouraging your child to read; however, there are tons more benefits of reading, and they go far beyond just test scores.

Are children and teens reading less than they used to? It appears so. Studies show that less than 20% of teens read for pleasure.

Yet they spend more and more time on social media or gaming, with the average eighth-grader spending four hours a day gaming, texting, and online browsing.

Of course, it’s hard to get your child or teen to curl up with a good book for hours — there’s just so many other fun things to do. But you might be pleased to hear that the benefits of reading just 20 minutes a day have been proven by research. 

And that’s something we can all commit to.

Why Reading?

Early exposure to language is the most significant factor in language development and learning to read. By reading together every day, you stimulate and strengthen your child’s language and literacy skills. It is that simple. By reading and talking with your child each day, you bond with them and model the love of reading, which will benefit them in school and throughout life.

Neuroscience provides compelling evidence that 85 – 90 per cent of brain growth occurs in the first five years of life. This affects not only cognitive skills but also emotional development.

Fostering your child’s cognitive development is just as important as nurturing his or her emotional and physical development. Cognitive development includes language skills, information processing, reasoning, intelligence, and memory.

The best way an adult can help a child’s cognitive development is to read with them every day, beginning at birth. When children are young, they learn language from the speech they hear. By reading with a child, you introduce many more words than those used in day-to-day communication. Reading builds brains, fosters early learning, and creates connections in the brain that promote language, cognitive, and social and emotional development. 

By reading with your child, you also help cultivate a lasting love of reading. Reading for pleasure can help prevent conditions such as stress, depression and dementia. 

Decades of early literacy research, from Durkin (1966), Bus van Ijezendoorn, and Pellegrini (1995), to Neuman and Celano (2006), provide convincing evidence that the interactions young children enjoy at home with their caregivers, especially conversation and hearing stories read aloud specifically play a significant role in academic success and beyond. 

A data set analysis of nearly 100,000 schoolchildren found that access to printed materials — and not poverty — is the “critical variable affecting reading acquisition.”  

MRI scans show increased brain activity in children whose parents read with them regularly. 

The Importance of Reading 20 Minutes a Day

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Reading 20 minutes a day has benefits for the health and strength of your brain. Reading is a complicated process, and as you read, your brain changes. When you read, your mind creates new circuits and connections. As your reading skills grow, these connections in the brain get more substantial and complex. 

There’s a LOT of research on this, and it’s clear: if you read to a child at least 20 minutes a day, at least three times a week from a very early age, they will:

  • Be ready for school
  • Get better grades throughout school
  • Get a better job
  • Be more likely to succeed in life
  • Be happier as an adult with higher self-esteem.

It’s also helpful to talk with a child, tell them stories, and have them tell you stories. All of these things help them learn language skills, which allows them to do better in school.

One study involved conducting brain scans on the brain over several days as the participants read a novel. As the storyline became tenser, the brain scans showed more and more brain areas with activity. They continued the brain scans for several days after the participants finished reading the novel. Brain activity continued to increase in connectivity.

Early Reading Skills Can Affect Children’s Academic Success

Reading 20 minutes a day exposes kids to a vast quantity of words. And this exposure makes children more likely to score in the 90th percentile on standardised tests.

If you compare this to children who read just 5 minutes per day — and are therefore more likely to score in the 50th percentile — it’s easy to see how reading time translates to academic success.

Meanwhile, a separate study involving almost 10 million students showed only those reading at least 15 minutes a day achieved accelerated reading gains. And those reading less were at risk of falling behind their peers. If you’ve been unsure of the benefits of reading 20 minutes a day, these statistics should help clear any confusion up!

Helps in Language Development

From the time your child is born, reading out loud is a positive influence. As your child grows, daily reading will help the brain connect the written and spoken word, widening vocabulary in the process.

Adding to that benefit, vocabulary knowledge equates to masterful spelling. Reading, spelling and vocabulary are critically essential to a child’s lifelong achievement.

Vocabulary Is Another Advantage of Reading

Reading also builds your vocabulary. So how do you increase your vocabulary? Reading books is the best method for producing a solid speech. 

Research conducted over 20 years indicates that the common link between successful individuals is that they each have a large vocabulary. Another benefit of having a significant language includes being able to process information at a faster speed. Once you know and understand a word, it lightens the load on your working or short-term memory. This helps you understand information input at a faster pace. An extensive vocabulary also builds the connections in your brain so that new lines of reasoning open up. 

Reading Often Helps to Improve Writing Skills

From our previous point, if there are vocabulary benefits associated with reading 20 minutes a day, then writing services are there for the taking, too.

Essentially, the more words your kid reads, the wider their vocabulary is likely to be. And a vast vocabulary makes a kid’s writing more exciting and impressive. They’ll discover new ways to convey meaning, articulate their thoughts, persuade people, use figurative language, and engage readers’ emotions. This can help them become stronger writers, whether working on a short story at age 10, an essay at age 13, or a college application letter at age 17.

Children who rarely read are less likely to expand their linguistic know-how in the same way. And that could hold their writing back significantly.

Promotes Brain Development

Educators have long said reading makes people more intelligent, and there’s research backing them up. A recent study conducted by the American Academy of Pediatrics found reading to children of any age awakens several regions in the left part of the brain. The areas in the brain that become active involve understanding the meaning of words and concepts tied to memory.

Reading Stimulates and Enhances Children’s Imaginations

Recent research shows that the image may be more potent than believed previously — scientists now believe that creative imaging can ‘rewrite’ specific memories to be less traumatic and even enhance certain physical connections within the body.

For example, imagining playing the piano could “boost neuronal connections in regions related to the fingers”. So developing a strong imagination could help people exercise greater control over their thoughts, memories, and more.

What’s this got to do with your kid, you ask?

Reading daily can help strengthen a child’s imagination, introducing them to concepts, cultures, and possibilities beyond their own life experience. They can learn about the world, stimulate their curiosity, and give them a better understanding of other people’s lives. And with the imagination being such a powerful force, there’s a lot to gain from that!

Fiction Stimulates Creativity in Children

So from imagination to creativity — two related but still quite different strengths for kids who read 20 minutes a day.

Getting lost in a fictional world helps kids to expand their creativity, as they’ll experience situations, worlds, characters, thoughts, and feelings that they may not have come across in their own lives just yet. What’s more, by reading they’ll realise that people can make a living from writing books, magazines, and newspapers. This may inspire them to explore their creativity and inform their career choices in the future.

Aids in Understanding of a World Outside Our Own

Reading is more than just translating written words into verbal form; it is about understanding those words were once ideas in the minds of great thinkers. It is about realising those ideas can be connected to personal experiences.

Through daily reading, children are exposed to a world outside their reality. It expands their know-how, opens their minds and creates the potential to continue ideas and an endless number of possibilities.

How Does Reading Affect Your Physical Body? 

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Reading Lowers Your Stress Levels-

In one recent study, reading every day reduces stress in your body. Stress is one’s physical and mental reaction to good and bad experiences in our lives. 

Stress is good for you in the short term. However, when pressure is constant in your life, it becomes chronic. The symptoms include

  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia

Doctors recommend reading to Promote Sleep-

Doctors recommend reading as part of a bedtime routine. When reading before bed tends to reduce stress in your body, which then promotes Sleep.

A Good Book Encourages Children to Relax at Bedtime

Kids, no matter their age, have a lot going on. They’re constantly learning, and changes like the transition from middle school to high school can be stressful for some.

The good news is that reading with your child or allowing them to read independently at bedtime can help them relax and wind down from their day.

The research found that 90% of children feel “happiest” when reading and writing instead of playing games or watching favourite cartoons. That might sound a little unbelievable if your kid is more often glued to their screen than with their nose in a book, but maybe a little nudge in the right direction is all they need!

Regularly Reading Helps Kids Develop Empathy

Studies show that reading can help children to develop empathy by challenging them to consider how other people (the characters) may think or feel.

You can give them a casual boost at school or home, too. Parents and teachers can help support this empathy development by asking:

  • “Why do you think Harry Potter did what he did on this page?”
  • “What could you say to make the BFG feel better about himself?”
  • “How would you feel if you were far from home, like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz?”

Learning to approach situations and consider the feelings of others could help children of all ages be more compassionate in life.

Provides Endless Possibilities

Whether it’s a picture book, a novel or even help resources, there are many options.

With technology such as the Kindle for Kids Bundle, your children can access books anytime, anywhere. The Kindle for Kids Bundle can hold thousands of books and allow your children to search for new titles and easily find recommended books based on their interests.

Additionally, children can take advantage of a Kindle to improve reading skills by developing word fluency and comprehension. Word Wise, for example, places short and straightforward definitions and synonyms directly above difficult words in the text, so kids can better understand the material and keep reading with few interruptions. Vocabulary Builder automatically takes words users to look up and creates flashcards with definitions and word usage examples.

Getting your child to read is not always an easy task. But, by allowing them to choose what they are reading and asking questions that encourage them to interact with the text, you are helping them see books as FUN.

The benefits of reading 20 minutes a day are abundant and worth the time. Make reading 20 minutes a day a priority to improve test scores, grow vocabulary, build empathy for others, decrease stress, and increase your Sleep. That is a win-win. 

Reading From Birth

It is never too early to read with your child. From day one, your child is learning every waking moment. In the first three years of your child’s life, 700 new connections between cells in the brain are formed each second (Center on the Developing Child). This is a rate faster than any other time in his or her life. You build your child’s listening, memory, vocabulary skills, and more when you read together.  

Keep on Reading

While parents tend to stop reading with their children once they read independently, these are the years to continue reading! As you read together, you bond with your child and help build his or her vocabulary.

Engaging Reading

Reading with your children isn’t just about reading what’s written on the page. Using dramatic voices, pointing to different pictures on the page, and asking your child to predict what will happen next, you’re engaging them on many different levels.

Paper vs. Electronic

Neuroscience research shows that paper-based content is better connected to memory in our brains (Bangor University). So while electronics are becoming more and more prevalent in our day-to-day life, keep printed books the main form of reading in your home.

When reading an ebook, when the book becomes interactive, the brain engages in the activity changes. It no longer is an activity that builds literacy skills. There is no give and take here; electronics should be an enhancement and not a replacement. 

Finding a balance between using technology and not relying on it can be challenging but is necessary for learning. 

So Why Read for 20 Minutes a Day? Now You Know

Young children, pre-teens, and teens can all reap several benefits from reading 20 minutes a day — whether that’s helping them learn about the world around them, increasing their academic performance, discovering their untapped creative potential, or just hanging out and enjoying a great book! Check out My Baby Nursery for all your baby product needs.

So what are you waiting for? Why not head down to the library or bookstore together, pick out a few new titles, and get to work on setting a unique, family habit — together.

Chances are, you’ve got a lot to gain from reading a little more too!

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