Did you know that the many benefits of reading aloud to your child begin from birth? A recent study reported in the New York Times found here shows that reading and playing with young children (ages 0-3) can shape their social and emotional development, in addition to helping them learn language and early literacy skills. Children who were read to in this study were found to be significantly less likely to be hyperactive or having attention problems at age 3 than the children in the control group. Significantly, these effects persisted a year and a half later, when they were almost at kindergarten age.

Not only should you start reading to your children at birth, but how you read to them can make a difference. Taking a fun, silly approach, perhaps using different voices for different characters in the book, or singing the words if the character is singing, can further engage and help little ones. Parents in this study were videotaped reading to their young children, and then watched the videotape with a parenting coach, who helped point out the children’s responses. As Adriana Weisleder, one of the authors of the study, noted: “We try to highlight the positive things in that interaction–maybe they feel a little silly, and then we show them on the tape how much the kid loves it when they do these things, how fun it is–it can be very motivating.”

So parents, make time for reading and playing sessions with your littlest ones, and let loose in them. Channel your silliest self, even if it is a bit out of your comfort zone. Your children will enjoy it, they’ll benefit from it, and it might even be more fun for you too.