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Reading Aloud to Young Children Has Benefits for Behavior and Attention (nytimes.com)
283 points by sea6ear on Apr 18, 2018 | hide | past | web | favorite | 99 comments

Fine, as long as you accept that the main purpose of reading a story aloud is to relax and enjoy the story together rather than to develop skills. Just as the main purpose of lego and similar toys is not to develop 'hand-eye coordination' but rather to build cool stuff. (Whatever claims are advertised on the packaging.)

This isn't a trivial point. If you read stories with the intention of fostering skill development you will neither inculcate skills nor get the most out of those stories.

>parenting coach

Ha. The idea that there exist professional parents who explictly know what they are doing (with footnotes and sources) is a major conceit in our present culture.

> the main purpose ...

That's absolutely the purpose when you're doing the activity with the child, but there's a decision in the toy shop when you have to choose between Lego and the talking movie-tie-in doll, or between the book and the DVD.

> professional parents

Psychologists or psychiatrists study child development. That's some distance from a "parenting coach", but the coaches probably read the books or study what the psychologists write.

A friend teaches "child development" to 14-16 year olds, in the end they take this [1] exam. It's fairly basic, it mostly deals with babies and infants, but it seems completely reasonable that there's and evidence-based way of dealing with "daddy, there's a monster under my bed".

[1] http://filestore.aqa.org.uk/sample-papers-and-mark-schemes/2... (PDF linked from http://www.aqa.org.uk/subjects/home-economics/gcse/home-econ..., which also has the official answers).

The conceit exists with people who assume they are experts at something despite having very limited experience with the subject and zero attempts at research. Are you saying you or anyone else is equipped to be a decent parent just because you were a child and maybe had a parent? Or is it just because you are a decent person that you think you are equipped?

I know plenty of decent people who think it's okay to spank a child when we know full well that it results in kids thinking that violence is a solution to their problems. It took me years to unlearn yelling at people as a solution to my problems. It took me years to not fight every little semblance of stupidity I see. It took me decades to recover from depression induced by a father who still thinks to this day that he was doing the right thing by yelling at me for my every little wrong as a child.

This same ridiculous logic that spawned this frivolous criticism is the same logic that results in people saying "we've gotten along just fine for y years without x; you are being ridiculous for wanting or saying you need x." Feel free to substitute in electricity, clean water, doctors, internet, cars and child labor laws for x. And yes life finds a way despite a lack of technology or understanding but that doesn't mean we can't seriously improve our lives or the lives of our children by using either. If you took a second to look at current child development research you would see how out of your depth you are.

You have a point insofar as child psychologists can advise parents about general best practices and diagnose what might be beneficial for their specific child. Giving the OP the benefit of the doubt though, I think he has in mind that this refers to a group of self-styled experts who aren't all that steeped in the research, and probably can't separate the wheat from the chaff because they don't have the training to interpret or critique it on its own merits, let alone having conducted any under peer review. They probably haven't put in clinical hours under multiple layers of supervision. The kind who are more concerned with credentials as a means to self-market and profit from their "brand" than as a badge of scholarly accomplishment and continued contribution to the field.

> Giving the OP the benefit of the doubt though, I think he has in mind that this refers to a group of self-styled experts who aren't all that steeped in the research

and then we go back to the article and see the reference is to people literally part of the research program.

>Are you saying you or anyone else is equipped to be a decent parent just because you were a child and maybe had a parent?

Yes. I think that, as things stand, good parenting is largely a matter of being lucky enough to have oneself received good parenting, i.e. it's mainly a matter of tradition. This doesn't imply that one shouldn't attempt improvements here and there, some guided by science. My beef is principally with the idea that there's a scientific method to produce better people. Conceiving of people as products rather than as ends-in-themselves.

Better people doesn't mean they have to be a product. Better people isn't even really how I would phrase it. More like lining your child up to have a better life.

It's something very hard to optimise for because what a good life is doesn't really have a strong definition. Is it quality of life in objective measurements? Comparative to your peers? To your upbringing? Is it having many itches and being able to scratch some of them? Having few itches and scratching them all? Is there an authenticity component ie in a hypothetical situation where you could matrix yourself and have a better life than your real one would you? Is 'meaning' a thing? Is it still meaningful if you create arbitrary need for 'meaning?

People have different measures but they pretty much all have measures.

Given that acquiring whichever mixed bag of "good life" things you believe in is almost certainly going to require certain modern life skills, I don't see any reason to attribute it to productisation of people. Just parents looking out for their kids interests.

I think you're right as shown by rich parents being more likely to have rich kids, violent parents have violent kids, poor parents, poor kids, etc. The trouble is, those violent people become parents too so they perpetuate the same problems. Without training, what's there to help whole cultures filled with poor parenting being passed on through generations?

"I want kids, but I wouldn't be a good parent so I won't have any" said nobody ever.

Why is parenting a special skill that isn't coachable? Or do you similarly believe a: CEO coach, marriage counselor, financial advisor, high-school guidance counselor, and dog trainer are a waste of time and people availing themselves of those professionals should just ask their parents advice instead?

> good parenting is largely a matter of being lucky enough to have oneself received good parenting, i.e. it's mainly a matter of tradition

a) Tradition is extremely variable across both time and space, even within the West

b) we have largely moved away from some of the nastier edges of "traditional" parenting, with good reason

c) there has to be a huge number of people who feel they don't want to replicate the upbringing they had and instead want help, who deserve decent resources

d) given that parenting resources exist, it's better to have and use scientifically tested ones than ones that replicate the prejudices of the loudest voices

>we have largely moved away from some of the nastier edges of "traditional" parenting, with good reason

Corporal punishment, you mean. Yes. However we've regressed in at least one way: many toddlers are now in daycare for 30+ hours per week.

>given that parenting resources exist, it's better to have and use scientifically tested ones than ones that replicate the prejudices of the loudest voices

Well, my original comment was more about how we use resources. But it seems doubtful whether we can scientifically test for how good such resources are, except in terms of narrow criteria like safety. We can't yet look into children's imaginations and measure how fired up they are; we can only try to find out what our children enjoy and help them to do more of it.

Consider the Harry Potter books. They may have done more for literacy than everything else combined since they arrived. Yet the first manuscript was rejected by many publishers, including some who no doubt had access to purportedly scientific advice.

Far better to look at what other families are doing, reading and playing with. And to read reviews online.

What's the purpose of parenting and education if it's not making the best person possible out of a child?

Why does it need to have a purpose? Parents have a duty of care towards their children and (usually) love them. That's motivation enough. Why make it more complicated than that?

Why treat and educate people about their specific problems if they have all the motivation to stay healthy?

If people are doing bad job at keeping themselves and their loved ones well, why not help them with little scientific knowledge?

Why doom them to do only as well as what they learned from their parents allows them to?

I didn't say anything about not using scientific knowledge.

"Making the best person possible out of a child" is not motivation, it's the goal.

In other words, it's not the "why"--it's the "how."

What parent does not want the best for their kids? The question is, how to do that? There are informed answers to that question.

It seems like a weird and rather amorphous goal, since there's never any way of knowing whether or not someone is the best person they could possibly be. I certainly doubt that many parents have this goal in mind.

>There are informed answers to that question.

To an extent. There's also lots of contradictory advice that's difficult to verify.

> If you read stories with the intention of fostering skill development you will neither inculcate skills nor get the most out of those stories.

[citation needed]

I suspect this only even approaches reality if by “intention” you mean “clumsily projected attitude”.

> The idea that there exist professional parents who explictly know what they are doing (with footnotes and sources) is a major conceit in our present culture.

The idea that parenting isn't a field which can be, and is, productively studied and that there aren't people who can provide useful guidance based on greater knowledge of that study and skill at observing and applying that knowledge is, itself, a major conceit in our present culture.

>if by “intention” you mean “clumsily projected attitude”.

Nah, just intention. For example, teaching children arithmetic with great moral seriousness, as we do, doesn't produce great arithmeticians. It merely encourages people to become math teachers.

>The idea that parenting isn't a field which can be, and is, productively studied

Trouble is that most of the knowledge is inexplicit and that family life is private. So trying to uncover and understand what's really going on is hard. If you try to study families empirically then you're (a) interfering with their normal activities, and (b) avoiding the fact that morality is independent of outcome. However, from the article, 'coach' suggests people are already giving advice. They think they know the answers.

100% agree. You can see the same happening in management - results from extremely simplified experiments is extrapolated to overarching advice.

Interacting with other people is complex and context-sensitive.

Can you explain what you mean by “great moral seriousness” and “great arithmetician” in this context? What do you think the purpose of teaching elementary mathematics is?

The main reason I read to my kids is to get them to stop running around and calm down and go to bed.

Similar with Lego. It’s amazing how much time my kids spend playing Lego, how quiet they are when playing (unless they are fighting over one of the special pieces) and I’m grateful for every minute that it keeps them occupied while I clean the kitchen or whatever.

I second this. I've bought several toys for my kids. Highly desirable ones (from their perspective) - Nerf guns, board games, hobby kits etc. But they get bored of those things in about 3 weeks. LEGO on the other hand is a gift that gives on giving. They randomly pick it up and start making things. We've bought a big basket and dump all the bricks into that so that there's enough variety to build anything.

Interestingly, I bought them a Jenga set a few weeks ago and they spend more time using the wooden bricks to make structures rather than playing the actual game. Maybe there's some instinct that's at work there.

I will probably be banned for this question: Are your kids boys or girls?

Boys and girls have obvious physical differences, yet it is offensive to even whisper that their brains might be different.

You should not be. I had both. They do work differently, and there is a lot of overlap.

Legos though. Common ground! Almost everyone will get after a pile of legos.

The thing I disliked the most was watching the girls lose interest in some things as social pressure increased on them. Girlie norms. Good for girls, not for boys, kinds of things were in play. Rubbed me the wrong way.

Thing is, some boys are girly, and some girls are boyish. That's OK. Has to be, or we require people to live lies. I sure don't want to do that. How can I require others to do it?

What if it were me? You?

We gotta shake that stuff all off, learn new ideas, new ways for people to better self identify and be good with who they are. We do that so they too can be good with who they are.

As a parent, it was hard to compete with the norms. Was mostly successful, but not to the degree I now feel makes sense. I had help from my kids peers who saw I was open, seeking, just wanting to bring out who I saw developing.

BTW: watching their peers showed me those brain differences aren't just gender driven. Boys and girls, in a general sense, can make these things easy to see.

And people get stuck on all that too. Like they stop right there, when the truth is they should be continuing!

The reality is the kids brains will work differently. A boy who likes to craft and sew happens more often than many understand, just as does the girl who likes to build, take it apart, or race. We tend to celebrate the latter, when we should just celebrate new people, our future.

That's where we need to get to, if you ask me. Let the kids present as who they are, and we can then seek to understand with them and maximize that with and for them.

Many young people today get this cold. A whole lot of norms we struggle with today are going to change for the better. It's a good thing, but will likely continue to be kind of rough for a while yet.

All, FWIW, just observations from the school of hard knocks. :D

I think it'll always be an uphill battle. Teenagers especially need to distinguish themselves from the opposite sex for sexual reasons. So whatever's normal for girls is what boys won't want to do and vice versa.

Oh, One boy and one girl and It's quite obvious to me that they're differently wired. The daughter is older than the son.

They both enjoy making stuff but it's very different. My daughter gets a kick out of making intricate stuff (everything from common household objects like a toothbrush to things more elaborate like a multi shelf cupboard). My son mostly make elaborate planes and cars. He figures out some "technology" (like swinging door or hinge) and then all the things he makes uses that.

What are those physical differences between children in lego age? The really obvious ones aren't fully developed, not active, so it shouldn't be offensive to suggest that a mental difference, as profound as expressed in lego playing, aren't active, either.

Bless you! Thanks!

Ha spoken like a real parent!

> as long as you accept that the main purpose of reading a story aloud is to relax and enjoy the story together rather than to develop skills

American culture puts so much stress on young kids these days. While I’m still an undergraduate, I see my sister who is about to graduate high school make dark jokes about going to college and her life but it seems there is some truth there.

If or when I become a parent, I’m going to teach inner cultivation rather than productivity, etc. I.e. “Do whatever you please, pal. I got your back.”

It’s just the whole social order seems very toxic and I don’t want that for young kids growing up. I argue that it’s the way we are raised and taught that we become so anxious, etc. We worry that we if we aren’t accumulating skills for the workforce or whatever, we are wasting our time. No, man. Play video games for the sake of playing video games. When did we become so anxious about doing the latter?

I like the way you think! I myself have fallen into this trap before, playing video games to relax whilst trying to read technical articles to improve my skills.

I didn't realise the danger of it until someone pointed out the waste, if you're going to relax then just relax!

As a recent father I'm going to teach my daughter financial planning and responsibility so she can provide for herself but otherwise that she can take her life in any which direction and that money is the not the answer.

I respect your intent —- there’s a lot going on in the co-enjoyment of reading that can’t be captured by research. But what research has captured are differences in literacy, verbal and cognitive abilities in children from different socioeconomic classes. When researchers went in and studied the actual reading styles of the different parents, they found that higher socioeconomic status parents asked different types of questions and engaged in different thinking patterns than lower SES parents. There was a tendency towards abstraction in the former and concreteness in the latter. That kind of stuff has significant effects in the process of early childhood brain development, which people don’t realize is this crazy critical window that the brain kind of solidifies around for the rest of life. So yeah, read and enjoy it, but be mindful of staying engaged and of engaging your kids’ thinking in multiple areas. Sometimes that’s not exactly natural or “in the moment.”

Can you share the link to that study please?

Well I mean teachers are kind of professional parents in that they teach kids new skills.

No no no! I am not your child’s parent! You are!

I will do my best to be your child’s teacher and teach them and be a positive influence in their life, but I am definitely not their parent.

So much this! I have a friend who teaches special needs children. She is amazing at her job. She can handle all the worst behaving kids like you wouldn't believe. Her experience is always that the biggest problem for many (most?) of her students with behavioral problems is, when she meets their parents, it's clear they have no boundaries, and the children get away with murder at home.

So much of being a parent is saying no, and having clear consequences when behavior is inappropriate. I can feel my pre frontal cortex getting exhausted when I watch my children, it's just so clear that theirs has yet to develop, and I need to be their behavior regulator.

I have a 20 month old kid, and in my experience out and about the town, meeting other parents, going to the playground, etc., in general I find that many (most?) parents (especially of the well educated / middle class or professional type) err very far to the other side.

That is, they follow their kids around closely, telling them what to do or not to do 200 times an hour, and not letting the children try anything for themselves. «Don’t climb down those steps. Don’t climb up the slide. Don’t run. Don’t pick up those rocks. That candy wrapper is trash don’t pick it up. Don’t put the stick in your mouth. Don’t step in that puddle. Stay far away from that dog poop. Stay on the path. Don’t kick that ball. Don’t borrow that toy, it’s not yours. Share your toy with the baby. Oh you fell down you’re okay you’re okay. Oh someone took your toy you’re okay you’re okay. Eat this or you won’t get that. We need to leave now, get in the cart.» And on and on. For the kids’ sake I wish the parents would just shut up and let them explore sometimes, and would explain their boundaries instead of just saying “no” to everything.

The poor kids then get scooped up and carted around in little strollers, often with their vision obscured by a canopy, strapped in, not interacting with the world or with people and with no personal autonomy. They then get transferred to a car seat, again strapped in and bored to tears as they are driven around town unable to see or interact with anything. The modern suburban lifestyle is terrible for small children.

The job of parents is not to shield their children from any and all stimulus because some of it might carry minor risks or be a minor inconvenience to someone else, but to help them get as much meaningful feedback as possible from their environment while not getting grievously injured. Parents should interact with their children all they want if that interaction comes in the form of talking to them, playing games, dancing around together, running up a hill, reading stories, building things, etc., but when the interaction consists largely of the parents exercising control over the children (and in my experience often otherwise glued to their phone screens), it’s really sad.

> That is, they follow their kids around closely, telling them what to do or not to do 200 times an hour

I'm British, but I live in Denmark.

It's excruciatingly easy to spot some (most?) British families, because of the way they treat their children. "Don't do that" "stay here" "don't touch that".

Danish parents seem much more willing to let the child follow along in the general direction, poking whatever and stamping in the puddles.

I am American and was in Denmark with an 18 month old toddler last year. We spent hours at many different Danish playgrounds.

There was one interesting design paradigm I noticed that I think is reflective of a difference in parenting cultures.

On the all the Danish play structures we played on, all of the elements where a kid could fall more than a few feet were in areas of the structure that required a sufficient level of coordination to reach, like climbing a ladder or using climbing holes in a wall. Less coordinated kids were stuck at the lower levels of the structure where there was fun stuff to do for younger kids.

This thoughtful design allowed us to sit far away from our kid while he played knowing that the structure was designed to scale the risk with his capability.

Here at home, my toddler could climb to the top of many climbing structures using regular steps, and fall six feet down to the ground through the open doorways where you might find a ladder to climb up or a pole to slide down. A six foot fall is too risky in my mind, even though I'm not much of a helicopter parent. In fact, 15% of construction fall fatalities are from six feet or less.

I think this kind of smart design can help give kids confidence to take risks when they are able and ready.

Fascinating insight about playground design.

However, I just want to put your and other reader's minds somewhat at ease about fall fatalities. I assume the construction fatalities are falls on to hard surfaces like metal or concrete. I recently learned, while reading the manual for a back yard swing set, that there are official tables of material depth to protect against fall height.

For example, to protect against a fall of up to 10 feet you could use 6 inches of recycled rubber or 9 inches of wood chips: https://www.cpsc.gov/s3fs-public/325.pdf (pdf)

Thank you, this is interesting.

Yeah, a fair point differenting the fall risk on playgrounds vs construction sites. It’s not apples to apples.

I'm British but live in Barcelona, our baby is being raised by the building where I live. The concept of personal space/privacy is much different, practically our whole building come and talk, hang out and play with our baby (9 months old), when we visit the UK people are much more hands off and cautious.

It also makes me incredibly happy that my daughter hears 4/5 languages daily, growing up multilingual seems such a cool and interesting thing.

Well part of it is preventing the kid from eating something toxic and I imagine that is wired into us genetically. The other is that ER bills are expensive... :) And the problem is kids have a hard time telling you what is wrong if they are hurt non obviously. Still kids should get to explore, I agree.

Yeah, there was a guy who was nicknamed the baby whisperer, recently died. Said while being able to help other parents, he was at a loss with his own children, well, to a degree.

Perhaps it is possible to be objective with other peoples' kids but impossible to be objective with your own. Sort of like with relationships.

Not sure, he seemed like a self-deprecating kind of guy.[1]:

SHAPIRO: For generations of parents, Brazelton was the expert. But when it came to his own children, he struggled.


BRAZELTON: Oh, gosh, I don't think I ever did anything right. My kids will be glad to tell you that. (Laughter) And so I really feel that learning to parent is learning from your mistakes, not from your success.


I probably get as much out of reading to my daughter as she does. I absolutely love some of the stories. I will be very sad when she gets to an age when she no longer wants me to read to her. Mind you, a friend of mine was still reading to his daughter when she was 18, so hopefully I have a few years to go still!

Any recommendations for childrens stories that are a must read?

The Elephant & Piggie series, by Mo Willems.

IMHO, the best kids book we've encountered. Some of the nice features:

a) well drawn and sharply delineated characters. (One of my pet peeves about some kids books is difficult to distinguish images that tend to get lost in a sea of bright colors.)

b) the text is _large_ and changes size according to the emotions of the characters.

c) phrases are repeated -- great for language acquisition -- but not in a way that's irritating or vacuous.

d) funny stories; real emotions that toddlers can grok.

e) good construction -- high quality printing, thick pages, etc...

The 20 month old thinks they are funny, but personally I find these books boring after 10 times reading the same book. YMMV.

Some of his recent favorites: Green Eggs and Ham, The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything, Duck in the Truck, Snip Snap! What’s That?, Gaston, Caps for Sale, Harry the Dirty Dog, We’re Going on a Bear Hunt.

I definitely like that series as well but I'd add:

f) Written with a rhythmic metre -- An example being Pout-Pout Fish by Deborah Diesen. It almost feels like one sings this book rather than read it. I've noticed with the books that are almost musical in nature young kids can "read along" (basically recite) the entire text after just a few readings even when the vocabulary is tough and absolutely beyond their reading ability. And if you leave it and come back to it in a couple of weeks they'll still know it with uncanny accuracy.

Completely unrelated & not meant to replace the books, which I adore.

Don’t let the pigeon drive the bus, ios app is awesome. Exactly what I want in a kids app.

my kid loved this book, and I read it maybe 40 times, but the whole style + text, I still enjoyed it )

there is also one called (I think, not English native) 'it is not a box' really nice and kids love it


Another nice thing about that series, for an early reader, is you can read one character and your child takes the other.

My parents read to my brother and I up until I left home at 18. By then it was more so that we didn't all (parents included) squabble about who got to read the new books first.

My dad read the Swallows and Amazons series to us, then a bit later the Hornblower series, also the Redwall series, the Hobbit, the Lord of the Rings, Treasure Island, Kidnapped, a few Dickens, Robinson Crusoe, all Narnia, possibly a couple of Shakespear. A bunch of classic Sci-Fi: Day of the Triffids, the Foundation series, etc.

My mum read first quite a lot of Enid Blighton (Famous 5, Secret 7, magic faraway tree, etc)(really dated now), a few of the 'Chalet School' books (I got bored of those though my brother read the rest to himself), Agatha Christie, Jane Austin, Jane Eire, Don Camilo, Adrian Plass, Harry Potter, an Abridged Narnia and Abridged Lord of the Rings when we were younger (I think she just skipped the scary parts), Roald Dahl and Dr. Seuss (our 3 year old loves them now), Katie Morag (lovely gentle stories), Dick King Smith, Alexander McCall-Smith has a few great calm fun fiction for kids (The Perfect Hamburger, for instance), Treasures of the Snow, Paddington, E.Nesbit, the Princess and Curdie et al, The Secret Garden, Dogger, the Story of Ping (AFTER you read it, check the amazon reviews), Politically Correct BedTime Stories ...

My wife and I are now reading (for the second time) through David Eddings' 'The Belgariad' together. I grew up reading those, although my parents never read them out loud, I dunno why. They work great out loud, but are definately for older readers. Teenagers or so. Kind of obvious plot - but the characters are so much fun to read, and it's a predicatable enjoyable journey.

Other older teenager series to read might include Ted Dekker's the Circle, Tamora Pierce, some of Anne McCaffery (depending how comfortable you are reading stories which include sex - maybe read them yourself first), Eragon (don't watch the movie though), Stephen Lawhead's various serieses, the Empryion one is a good start. Not too long, nor too heavy. Some John Grisham (The Street Lawyer is EXCELLENT.)

I'd recommend all of the above to get started :-)

> the Swallows and Amazons series

Wait, that was a series? I vividly remember reading that book growing up, but I never knew there were more. I know what I'm going to be reading this summer!

Some of my favorites:

- "Book with No Pictures" (B.J. Novak [yes, that's Ryan from The Office]) - anything by Sandra Boynton - Boxcar Children series - Cam Jansen series - "Ada Twist, Scientist" (Andrea Beaty)

We have tons of books, from a variety of sources; some are duds, IMHO, mainly gifts from my MIL (tip for giving books to children: read through them first, from the perspective of reading that book every day for a month; bargain bins contain tons of garbage). Unfortunately, the kids like some of the duds, so they slip them in from time to time.

"anything by Sandra Boynton"

The Sandra Boynton children's music CDs are also quite tolerable as such things go.

Sandar Boyton books are great - but the music CDs I found a bit wanting and painful to listen to.

I highly recommend:

1. "Dinosaurs and Dragons" by Kevin Roth.

2. "Hot Dog" and "Sing Along" by Caspar Babypants (aka. Chris Ballew)

3. Saturday Morning Cereal Bowl podcasts: https://saturdaycerealbowl.podbean.com/

The Halloween podcast is one of my favorites

My son loves to listen to all of these.

Seconded -- we've found them to be excellent road-trip music, too.

Swimming along, sometimes at great speed, sometimes slowly and leisurely, sometimes resting and exchanging ideas, sometimes stopping to sleep, it took them a week to reach Amos's home shore. During that time, they developed a deep admiration for one another. Boris admired the delicacy, the quivering daintiness, the light touch, the small voice, the gemlike radiance of the mouse. Amos admired the bulk, the grandeur, the power, the purpose, the rich voice, and the abounding friendliness of the whale.

It doesn't get much better than William Steig — all of his books give kids the tools and analogs to confront complex emotions and overcome fears. Amos and Boris is my favorite, The Real Thief is excellent if they're a little older.

My daughter (now 4) loves: Poor Louie; Rosie Revere Engineer; Ada Twist Scientist; Iggy Peck Architect; Elephant & Piggie books; Llama Llama books; Rory the dinosaur books; ...and because she loves the shows, she asks for: PJ Masks books; Paw Patrol books.

Children book recommendations are very age-dependent.

I read a ton of graphic novels with my 6-year-old

- DC Super Hero Girls

- Cleopatra in Space

- Adventure Time

- Zite the Spacegirl

Don’t forget “Mighty Jack”, which leads into the Zita series.

I like all books by Raina Telgemeier, as well.

I read these graphic novels to my 3 and 6 year-olds, over and over.

That's awesome. I read a lot to my kids but it's always been tricky/hard to do graphic novels/comics.

I don't think there are any "must-reads", but I'll recommend the Ramona series by Beverly Cleary as fantastic read-alouds for kids age five or older. My older child (12 now) and I really enjoyed Bill Bryson's "Made in America" and "A short history of nearly everything".

An oldie but goodie is "My Father's Dragon" which has three books that you can get in a single binding.

Some of the favourites in our house:

Hooray for Fish

The Hobyahs

Don't Wake Up the Tiger

Katinka's Tail

All the Harry the Dog books

Dumbo's African Adventure

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

A New House for Mouse

Many of the Disney books - they can be very hit and miss but some have been quite popular, like the Dumbo book above, Beauty and the Beast, Winnie the Poeh, and a few others.

Reading to our kids at bedtime is one of my favourite times too :)

Richmal Crompton's Just William stories had us all falling about on occasions. Richmal Crompton had no children but knew quite a bit about how small boys operate. She wrote the first story nearly 100 years ago but they remain popular for very good reason.

My daughter, who is 9 now, adores anything by Roald Dahl. I've read most of the famous ones to her. It's super fun when you try to read his nonsense words. Always a laugh. I'm trying to go towards abridged classics. I've read most of Jules Verne to her and some Stevenson (Kidnapped was one of her favourites). She also enjoyed the Milnes original Winne the Pooh (I'll never forgive Disney for destroying it), Gaiman's Coraline and Fortunately the milk. The classics like E.B. Whites Charlottes Web and Stuart Little were fun too. We also went through a childrens adaptation of the Arabian Nights hauntingly illustrated by Victor Ambrus. I heard that the Woz used to read Tom Swift Jr. books to his kids so I read one of those to my daughter. It felt a little cheesy and dated (eg. Asian people were called Orientals) but she enjoyed it. I also read The Water Babies (by Rev. Charles Kingley) to her. It was a weird book but she seemed to enjoy it. The only one she asked me to stop reading to her was "The Borrowers" by Mary Norton. The only thing where she preferred the animation over the book. Right now, we're reading Swallows and Amazons.

She also enjoys reading a lot by herself. Her latest craze was Astrid Lingdren and right now, she's reading Mrs. Frisby and the rats of NIMH.

My son, who's 5 now and can't read fluently yet, enjoys graphic novels. I read at lot of simple "Thomas the Tank engine" stories to him. He also enjoys the "From the black lagoon" series of books as well as stuff from Dr. Seuss and other kids books like the Gruffalo series. One of his favourites are the books by Quentin Blake (Mrs. Armitage, Patrick, Angelo etc.). Interestingly, I read Kidnapped to my daughter while he (unknowingly) listened on and later he was able to recount some of the important scenes in the book quite well. He knew about Alan Breck and how he fought in the ship and what not. That was a bit of a wow moment for me.

I also love reading poetry to them. Even singing it if I can. The Random House book of poetry for children edited by Jack Prelutsky. Both of them love it and enjoy reciting stuff by themselves. They even have a few "favourite poems".

I think one of the responsibilities of a parent, especially in the younger years, is to curate the world that reaches their children. You have to expose them to the best of humanity so that they grow up that way and when they encounter the failings, they'll know how belong human potential it is. The humanities are a wonderful way of doing this and I emphasise them a lot more in my household than the sciences.

I enjoyed My Father's Dragon so much! Also the Little House on the Prairie books, and then when she's a little older, everything by Tamara Pierce.

My favorite from childhood, and which still holds up quite well as an adult, is Once on a Time, by AA Milne (same author as the Winnie the Pooh stories).

The Hobbit, once they're old enough to get into it (and to handle the scary parts). It literally started out as Tolkien's bedtime stories.

Pumpkin Trouble by Jan Thomas is one me, my wife, 3 and 5 year old all laughed at last night

Harriet the Hamster Princess, or really, anything by Ursula Vernon.

I'll second this. My 6 year old really loves anything by her. Great writing and just plain fun stories.

The Phantom Tollbooth. The greatest book ever written.

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin.

Catwings series by Ursula K. Le Guin

Anything by Bill Peet is amazing.

Off the top of my head

Rosie Revere Engineer and others from the same author

The Fairy Bell Sisters

Magic Treehouse

Junie B Jones

Princess in Black

Ling and Ting series

The Golly Sisters

Sisters (comic book)

Harold and the Purple Crayon

Why is this an article at all?

I also believe that playing video games with your kids has benefits. Also throwing a ball. Even kicking the ball with kids (btw, do not do that with baseball ball - lesson learned). Or just walking and talking about shit (sometimes literally).

I'm just sarcastic here (and angry on myself): I did many mistakes of not being around for my first kid but I'm trying to fix up with second and third. Please do listen to the old guy: spent time with your kids. Period.

I think that this is an article, because if children are read to they will be more literate, and then when they grow up their comments on the Internet will make more sense.

Studies which divide people into two groups and do "$THING_WITH_LIKELY_POSITIVE_EFFECT" on one group and nothing on the other group are not very interesting or convincing IMO.

Normally, unless done really badly, initiatives like the one described here will have a significant positive effect.

More interesting studies follow the pattern of comparing different potential initiatives, or even better, comparing a surprising initiative with an obvious one. E.g. some studies have indicated that giving school children chess coaching improves their maths scores more than extra maths lessons.

That said, I'm hugely grateful to my parents for being very involved in reading aloud and telling stories while I was young. I'm convinced without the results of this study that there was a huge positive effect.

Would be nice to have a study on giving agenda-free positive undivided attention as a baseline and then variations with different activities.

Agreed. Kids need unstructured time too!

what? studies with control groups aren't interesting or convincing?

this seems like a long-winded way of saying "obviously this was true", which is a ridiculous attitude towards science (social science in particular)

I suppose the point is that a study comparing reading to nothing can demonstrate that one particular type of parental attention is more useful than lack of attention, but can’t conclusively show that there’s something special about reading aloud per se. Maybe just talking, or building with blocks, or kicking a ball back and forth, or digging in the dirt, or just doing whatever the kid wants to do but together, .... would accomplish as much, or maybe reading aloud has some unique benefit, but such a study can’t distinguish those.

Edit: but actually looking at the article under discussion here, the intervention seems to be videotaping parents playing and reading with their kids and then showing them back the videotape and talking about it. So maybe what is most needed here is more explicit external feedback to the parents, rather than any specific schedule for the kids.


This study also claims to have shown a dosage effect.

It’s sad that nowadays every second needs to be productive. The main benefit is to have a nice, focused time (device-free) with your kid.

Reading aloud is entertainment. It makes going to bed palatable and if you can master the pronunciation of the patois in the Joel Chandler Harris Br'er Rabbit books, little kids find dad talking that way totally hilarious.

must free them from the clutches of paw patrol, little baby bum and peppa pig

I just want to share my story. My son always seemed to be behind his classmates. He's a bright, articulate, has an excellent spoken vocabulary, and a has wonderful sense of humor. He just always seemed to struggle in school through the early elementary years.

My son especially struggled with reading. In an effort to help him with reading, I spent huge amounts of time forcing him to read different books. I used Anki to help him memorize difficult words.

I did help him, but by the fourth grade he was still behind his classmates

Everything changed one day when I decided to back off and instead read to him (and my daughter) every night for pleasure. I stopped asking to read part of the book. I tried different books and quickly my son and daughter started to enjoy the nighttime ritual of being read to.

About half way through Roald Dahl's book the BFG, something clicked in my fourth grade son. He started reading the BFG on his own. Then he started to read during school downtime. When I'm driving him somewhere he is often now reading books in the backseat instead of playing games on his iPad.

My point is reading fun books to your children can help them fall in love with reading and thus make them want to read.

If I could give any advice to new parents is to read to your children every night (maybe take weekends off :-) ) and try and just have fun reading interesting stories to them.

Hopefully my son has found a lifelong love of reading, which will serve him well.

Don't take weekends off )

Really. Read to them every night in bed! It is an amazing bonding experience. Read fun books for both of you. I don't think you will have anything that you will regret less in your life!

There have been multiple and ongoing studies that show reading to your child helps develop multiple parts of the brain, including auditory processing capabilities that are essential to early reading development. The diversity of words matter, even the positive nature as opposed to negative tone of words matters.

https://www.greatschools.org/gk/articles/word-gap-speak-more... is one article that discusses some options but the original study can be found here:


There have been follow on studies discussed here


That show it also has to do with the diversity of words, and even their tone (the positive vs negative) that is a key driver towards how well they engage and grow.

Just anecdotally, reading is the most powerfully positive shared experience I have with my kids, and we do everything together. We paint pictures, play outside, eat dinner, watch movies, play video games together, etc. But reading is different; when I read to them, they're quiet, they're well-behaved. They are really paying attention.

It's not the activity they enjoy the most, and it's not proactively educational (at least not in the sense that I'm forcing numbers and letters down their throat), but it just seems to turn them into a different sort of kid for a few moments.


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