the wonders (and benefits) of reading to keiki

Courtney Takabayashi
April 16, 2024

In today's world filled with digital screens, reading to our keiki is more important than ever. It's a good way to help them build language skills and empathy and can even teach them how to handle challenging feelings. Lauren Breckenridge Padesky, Ph.D., an early childhood education specialist with the Hawaii Department of Education Office of Curriculum and Instructional Design – Learning Support Team, answered our questions about reading to keiki and shared helpful strategies and resources to help families get started.

Q&A with Lauren Breckenridge Padesky, Ph.D.

What are some benefits of regularly reading to children?
Reading aloud to children is an excellent way to foster their language development and print awareness. Even the youngest of babies benefit from regular reading! Not only is it necessary for helping children develop vocabulary and oral language skills, but it is also a wonderful way to bond together over a positive shared experience.

Reading can bring generations together. 

How often should I read to my child and for how long?
As much as you can! A daily reading session, even as short as five to 10 minutes, will help your child learn new words and become familiar with story structure. This is why bedtime stories can be a great way to get in daily reading experiences – they’re calming, quick, and a lovely way to finish the day.

There are so many children’s books out there, how do we choose what to read?
Choosing books your children like is the most important consideration! Reading time shouldn’t feel like a chore, so let your child be an active participant in picking out books they want you to read. Especially for toddlers and preschoolers, it’s totally normal for children to pick out a special “favorite” book that they want you to read again and again every night. Read that book every night, and if you have the energy, try to follow it up with a new book to build variety.

You can also pay attention to the types of books to stretch their knowledge. Children love age-appropriate fiction and nonfiction books alike, and both are highly beneficial for growing your child’s language and literacy skills.

Let keiki choose their own (reading) adventure!  

Also, if you are a multilingual family, we strongly recommend reading to your child in their home language! Being multilingual is an asset and your child will benefit greatly from knowing more than one language.

Reading in other languages is fun and beneficial! 

What are some tips for making reading fun for my child and keeping them engaged?
Reading aloud is not a “sit and listen” activity! The best way to read a book with young children is to let them talk and interact, as well. On each page, after you read the text, encourage your child to respond with you, such as by asking your child a question about the characters and illustrations. Particularly active children might especially enjoy physically acting out the book while you read it to them, too!

Do you have any recommended online resources for parents?
There are a ton of resources out there! Here are some of my go-to sites:

Bess Press
Local publisher of Hawaii-focused books.

Dialogic reading
Learn how to read aloud with young children effectively.

Early literacy
The American Academy of Pediatrics discusses the “5 Rs” of early education, which includes reading, rhyming, routines, rewards, and relationships.

Hawaii Department of Education Library Media Services (SORA)
School media services available for students and teachers from the state Department of Education.

Hawaii P-20
List of local community organizations that support literacy.

Hawaii State Library System
The state library offers a variety of programs, events, and resources for readers of all ages.

Family Hui Hawaii
This nonprofit supports families through support groups, events, and more.

We love reading and it shows! Check out these articles sure to inspire you to pick up a book. 

addressing the gaps in hawaii’s literacy landscape
five ways reading improves your well-being
libraries: an all-access pass to the world
national read across america day
pick up a book for international literacy day
three easy ways to read more books
three tips for reading with your keiki
wahine on the waves

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