The following blog post was written by a St. Ambrose University marketing student as part of a final project for class. We appreciate the research and insight the student provided on this topic.
Jacqueline Kennedy once said, “There are many little ways to enlarge your child’s world. Love of books is the best of all.” Reading to young children, and then encouraging them to read themselves once they get old enough do so themselves, will improve the teenagers, young adults, and professionals they will grow up to be, whilst also advancing the young children they currently are. Between the ages of 2-5, reading to your child and allowing them to try to read books on their own increases academic success, basic language and communication skills, logical thinking skills, mastery of the language you speak at home, and concentration and discipline.  And if that isn’t enough for you, it also provides you with a built-in bonding experience for you and your kids. Almost 20 years later, I still have fond memories of my parents reading bedtime stories to me every night.
With social media, video games and smart phones increasingly taking over people’s lives, and excessive use of these (particularly social media) being linked with depression and mental disease, giving your kids another hobby and a place to escape is a great early defense mechanism. Reading has been proven to reduce stress, by up to 68% in just 6 minutes, although most avid readers wouldn’t need the help of science to know this!  In fact, according to the team at the University of Sussex, reading is better at reducing stress than listening to music, going for a walk, or sitting down for a cup of tea or coffee. So whilst you are reading to your kids, not only are you bonding with them and increasing their development, you are helping yourself to relax, which helps you be a better parent! Unsurprisingly, video games didn’t help much, and actually further increased heart rates. University of Sussex lead researcher, Dr. David Lewis said, "[Reading] is more than merely a distraction but an active engaging of the imagination as the words on the printed page stimulate your creativity and cause you to enter what is essentially an altered state of consciousness."
The evidence for the benefits of reading is clear: reading helps you lower your stress and bond with your child, and there are countless benefits for your child. So, if you want to build a stronger relationship with your child, increase their basic speech and communication skills, improve their logical thinking skills, and give them better concentration and discipline, then encourage your children to read. Spongebob Squarepants might be entertaining, but he just doesn't have the power to positively shape children like reading does!