Reading does the mind (and body) good.

Words To Live By

Open a book, and a marvelous adventure begins. Reading enriches our lives by providing entertainment and knowledge for us and our families. There is a bonus too: It influences good health and wellness for all ages.

Chapter One
Begin the reading journey when your child is an infant by reading aloud and often. Though they might not understand the words, babies respond to the sounds of your voice and the colors on the page. Also, make it a tactile experience by encouraging them to hold or touch the book.

"Hearing, seeing, and touching--all this fits together and is stimulating," says Pat Hodge, director of curriculum and instruction for the Trussville, Alabama, City Schools. "It will help them as they grow up to associate reading with good fun."

Learning Curve
Continue reading to your children as they grow older. Toddlers benefit in a number of ways. First and foremost, it helps with their language development. "The more they hear through reading aloud, the stronger their vocabulary becomes," says Pat.

Most preschoolers want to hear the same story over and over. This repetition builds many skills, such as sequencing and recall.

"Young children become familiar with the words on the page and listening to the sounds," Pat says. "Doing this at the same time teaches children to try to read as best they can."

Make reading a priority for yourself. Children model the behavior of their parents. It show your kids that you enjoy and value reading.

"Encouraging reading is the single thing that parents can do that will be of greatest importance in their child's learning," says Pat.

Children aren't the only ones who benefit from reading. Adults do too. Getting lost in a good book eases the strain of everyday life. In fact, many mental health plans in the United Kingdom require adults to read for pleasure as part of their therapy for depression or stress-related illnesses, says Pat.

"Reading is physically good for you," she says. "It helps take stress out of our minds."

Also, it broadens our knowledge and stretches us, which affects our overall well-being. "We stay younger longer when we continue to learn," concludes Pat. Not a bad thing at any age.

Healthy Benefits

  • Reading to young children at least three times a week increases the likelihood that their reading scores will be in the top 25%.
  • Turn off the TV, and turn on togetherness by setting aside a family reading time each week.
  • Communication is important. Research shows that kids who hear their family's stories do better academically and make better choices when confronted with temptation.

Now Hear This
Listening to a good story never goes out of style. Make a point to read to your children even as they get older. When traveling, pop an audio book into your car's CD player, and listen together. Follow up with an informal discussion of the work heard. These conversations will encourage better communication between you and your kids.