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A family reading children's books together.
My husband and I reading books with our son.

This past spring, my local thrift store offered a promotion where they gave away a free book to every child who walked through their doors on a specific day in April. While my son and I took advantage of the promotion, only later did I find out that this event was one of many planned across the nation the week of April 29 – May 5, 2019 in observation of Children’s Book Week! I had never heard of Children’s Book Week, but after doing a little research, I learned that this national literacy initiative was established in 1919 to celebrate children’s books and reading. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the initiative, and if you missed the spring celebration, you’re in luck! There is a second week of festivities planned in the fall, from November 4-10, 2019, during which schools, libraries, bookstores and more will offer events to cultivate and celebrate young readers.

Why is it important to encourage young people to read? First of all, reading to and with young children can help them learn language and early literacy skills. A recent study conducted at the Ohio State University, referred to as the “million word gap study”, found that children who are read five books a day enter kindergarten having heard about 1.4 million more words than children who are not read to.

Secondly, researchers are discovering more and more how reading to and with young children can shape their social and emotional development. In a recent study funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, researchers found that 3-year olds who were read books while waiting in a doctor’s office were significantly less likely to be aggressive or hyperactive than peers who were not read to. Furthermore, when researchers followed up with those children 18 months later, they found that the observed effects on their behavior had persisted.

When reading to and with children, adults can create opportunities to cultivate emotional intelligence and other positive behaviors in children. When adults pause while reading to ask questions about characters, children learn to think about how others feel and how their actions can impact others.

Books can be used to encourage other healthy habits in children, too. When I teach nutrition to preschoolers, I often use books to help expose children to healthy food(s) in a positive way. When children see friendly characters trying and enjoying new food, they may be more likely to do the same!

What healthy habits would you like to encourage in your children? Are there specific books you could use to help you do so? Whether you have certain books in mind or not, know that any time spent reading with the children in your life is time well spent. Check out these ideas for more fun ways to celebrate Children’s Book Week and cultivate young readers!

Written by: Jenny Lobb, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Franklin County, lobb.3@osu.edu

Reviewed by: Michelle Treber, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Pickaway County, treber.1@osu.edu

Sources:

Barlage, L. (2019). What are you reading today? Live Healthy, Live Well, OSU Extension, Family and Consumer Sciences. https://livehealthyosu.com/2019/08/08/what-are-you-reading-today/

Every Child a Reader (2019). Children’s Book Week: 100th Anniversary Celebration Details. https://everychildareader.net/cbw/100th/

Klass, P. (2018). Reading aloud to young children has benefits for behavior and attention. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/16/well/family/reading-aloud-to-young-children-has-benefits-for-behavior-and-attention.html

Lindquist, S. (2012). Nutrition: Help kids eat better by reading children’s books. Michigan State University Extension. https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/nutrition_help_kids_eat_better_by_reading_childrens_books

Science Daily (2019). A “million word gap” for children who aren’t read to at home. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/04/190404074947.htm

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