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The Importance of Picture Books

It probably won’t come as news to you that reading to children carries with it a lot of benefits, such as promoting language comprehension and literacy. According to 2016 statistics from Scholastic, 62% of parents with kids aged 3 to 5 read to their children most days, and most kids say that they like or love this special time with their parents. While reading to preschool-aged kids has clear and perhaps obvious benefits, there is evidence that reading to infants is also important, even reading to newborns.

In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that parents should begin reading to infants as soon as possible (High et al., 2014). This recommendation is based on classic research showing that children whose parents talk to them more have an advantage in school over children whose parents talk to them less (Hart Risley, 1995). The key difference seems to lie in the number of words children are exposed to when parents speak to them aloud. This advantage is evident by the time children are two years old; children at this age who are spoken to more by their parents at 18 months understand and produce more words at age 2 (Hurtado, Marchman, Fernald, 2008). Further, besides talking to children, reading to them aloud also likely exposes children to new and different words that parents don’t often use regularly in everyday speech. Along these lines, studies have shown that the number of words infants produce and understand is predicted by how much they are read to (e.g., Robb, Richert, Wartella, 2009).

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Besides benefits for word exposure, there is also evidence that babies can learn specific content from books, which can begin even before a

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