Levine Childrens Hospital

Child Health | 3 months ago

Unwrapping the Benefits of Reading: How books make the perfect gift for kids

Bridgette Orehek, nurse practitioner at Atrium Health Levine Children’s Rock Hill Pediatrics, explains how books are a great gift for kids because reading is crucial for a child's development – from cultivating creativity to creating opportunities to connect with caregivers.

The season of giving is upon us. While toys and technology might be at the top of many wish lists, books are a timeless gift that continue to stand out. In a screen-filled world, the power of reading remains unmatched. Bridgette Orehek, a certified pediatric nurse practitioner at Atrium Health Levine Children’s Rock Hill Pediatrics, says she always recommends books and magazines as gifts for children.

“Gifts of books show children that reading is important, as well as fun,” Orehek says. “Through reading, a safe area is created where the child can be open to exploring stories, words, textures and sounds at all stages through their lifespan.”

Nurturing Development 

Reading ignites imagination and fosters a love for learning. Books envelop children in the wonderful world of words – transporting them to another place simply by encouraging them to use their own imaginations. 

“Reading gives children somewhere to get lost, which is especially great for those experiencing anxiety,” Orehek says. “It is an amazing coping technique.”

Reach Out and Read is a national nonprofit that champions the positive effects of reading daily and engaging in other language-rich activities with young children. The organization says reading to children helps grow their curiosity and memory and enhances their understanding of the world by exposing them to new people and places. Additional positive effects of reading include better recognition of sounds and letters, a broader vocabulary, increased listening skills and a deeper understanding of how stories work.

“Children whose parents read to them daily have an exponential increase in vocabulary compared to children who are not read to regularly,” Orehek says. “It also positively affects future performance at school.

Reach Out and Read partners with pediatric offices across the country, including many Atrium Health Levine Children’s locations, to deliver books and reading materials to parents. 

“We give a book at the newborn visit and every well child visit through 5 years of age,” Orehek says. “Reach Out and Read books are chosen by developmental age. They strive to have books that represent the children and families served. It is an amazing program that promotes reading and the parental bond throughout the children's development. The children absolutely love to receive their books!”

Building Bonds

Reading is also an opportunity to create a bond with parents or caregivers.  

“Children usually like the quiet time with a parent and look forward to it, if started early,” Orehek says. 

Orehek recommends introducing the ritual of reading with children from day one. Just showing infants the pictures, encouraging them to touch and learning to hold a book can increase the love for books as well as future school readiness. Once the child is learning to read, Orehek recommends letting them read to you first, then taking turns so you are both reading the story together.

To help encourage children to be interested in reading, Orehek suggests finding a subject the child likes and then picking stories that match that subject. You can also have a special chair to read in with a blanket and expressively read the story to make it more engaging.

With toddlers, try to choose a time where the parent can catch them when they are quieter, like before a nap or at night. If you have a wiggle worm, Orehek says parents can also read to the child as they are moving around. 

“Children can still listen to the story while they play, and they will eventually want to have more one-on-one time with their parents as they get older,” Orehek says.

Making your Gift Memorable 

The charm of a book might feel a bit understated compared to all the things on their list that beep and buzz. Here are a few ideas to level-up your book-giving experience:

  • Write about your own connection or experience with the book on the inside cover. 
  • Bundle several books together in a theme of the child’s favorite character or interest.
  • Make a “book nook starter kit” and include a blanket, reading light and personalized bookmark.
  • Create a customized story where the child is the main character. (Because who doesn’t love to see themselves as the superhero?)
  • Consider giving a subscription to a book or magazine service, so the child can look forward to getting something just for them in the mail each month.
  • Give a recordable book where you record yourself reading the story. Then every time the child pushes “play,” the story will come alive through a familiar voice.

However you choose to present your gift, know that you are opening the door to a world of possibilities for the future bookworms in your life.

For more ways to help your child thrive, find an Atrium Health Levine Children’s pediatrician near you.