As parents, we have big dreams for our kids.
We want them to be smart so they can go after what they want in life and have a reasonable chance of getting it. We want them to grow up to be kind, caring members of the community. And it would be nice if they also turned out to be the type of people who remember to signal before turns.
And yet, now is the time to set our kids up for success in life. So how can we raise smart and kind kids?
As it turns out, we have one magic “keystone habit” as parents that will help us raise smart, kind kids.
If you haven’t heard of keystone habits before, they’re an elite category of habits that kick off a chain reaction, influencing several areas of your life at once. In other words, you can focus on just one keystone habit, and you’ll experience several positive impacts.
The best thing about this particular “keystone habit” for raising smart, kind kids is that it’s completely free, it takes just 10-15 minutes a day, and anyone can do it.
All you have to do is this: Read to your child. Even if they already know how to read to themselves. Because research shows reading aloud is the powerful keystone habit that will raise smart, kind kids.
This is what happens when you read aloud to your child every day:
- Your child will hear a wider variety of words. Here’s why this is important: The one pre-kindergarten skill that matters above all others, because it is the prime predictor of school success or failure, is the child’s vocabulary upon entering school. Yes, the child goes to school to learn new words, but the words they already know determine how much of what the teacher says will be understood. And since most instruction for the first four years of school is oral, the child who has the largest vocabulary will understand the most, while the child with the smallest vocabulary will grasp the least.
- You grow your child’s brain, literally. The more you read to your child, the more the neurons in their brain will grow and connect together.
- You put them on the path to be a lifelong reader. Reading is essential for the learning process, and kids who struggle with reading tend to struggle in school. But you have the power to give your child this one key to success in school and life because the single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children.
- Your child’s behavior will improve. When you read aloud, you increase your child’s ability to pay attention and concentrate – skills that definitely help your child in school. Also, reading aloud to a child can even decrease aggressive tendencies in the child.
- You build a stronger bond with your child. Kids love when you read aloud to them because of the physical closeness and emotional bonding it offers. In our busy modern lives, how often do we stop everything we’re doing, put down our phones, and just enjoy time with our kids? A strong connection with your child leads to better cooperation from them, and that’s something pretty much every parent could use more of.
- You increase your child’s capacity for empathy. When you read fiction to your child, their brain is “literally living vicariously through the characters at a neurobiological level.” In other words, you’re exposing your child to different types of people and giving them the ability to put themselves in their shoes while you read. Growing your child’s empathy muscle will teach them to be a friend who empathizes, a partner who can see their partner’s side in a disagreement, and a compassionate person who helps others in need.
The moral of my little research project? The one single habit of reading aloud to your child kicks off a chain reaction of all these positive outcomes, and more. If you’re looking for the secret to raising smart kids, reading aloud is it.