The importance of reading

by Katelin Whiddon

Reading. We do it everyday. Between road signs, menus, directions and more, we read numerous things each day. But the most important daily reading we can do is to our children.

We should be reading aloud to our children each day, even before they are born. I am a nurse practitioner at Central Arkansas Pediatrics in Conway, where we are among a group of offices nationwide that participates in a national program called “Reach out and Read” (ROR). Currently we are the only pediatric clinic in Faulkner County that participates in this program.  

At wellness visits from age 6 months through 5 years, we are able to provide a book for each child at no cost to their family. At this time we talk to parents about the importance of reading aloud to children daily and the effects they will witness, not to mention the long term benefits. (Visit to learn more.)

Around 16-18 weeks gestation, a baby begins to hear. Reading to your unborn child can create a bond very early. Reading and talking to the baby is something the father and other family and friends can do to contribute to the baby’s development in utero. Babies learn the voices and sounds of those around the mother most often and find them familiar after birth.

Reading aloud to your children helps them develop listening and focusing skills, stimulates language development, and increases their vocabulary. Additionally it creates a bond between the child and the person reading to them; it improves self-esteem, and can help with imagination and memory.  

The American Academy of Pediatrics cites numerous studies regarding reading aloud to children. The results showed that by parents reading aloud to their children, both receptive and expressive vocabulary skills were higher in toddlers. Other studies indicate that children who have been read to from a young age are more likely to have a love for learning and reading and may also earn higher grades in school.

Illiteracy remains a major concern in our communities today. Parents who are unable to read themselves, can still “read” to their children and create a love for books and learning, simply by looking at the pictures and making up a story from the pictures because reading to a child is not limited to the words on the page.

How often do you get tired of reading the same story to your child? Have you ever changed up the story line? I certainly have. Looking at pictures in the book can be enough to tell a story. Better yet, let your child look at the pictures and tell you a story. Modeling this love of books is one of the greatest gifts you can give your child and his/her future education.

With the price of books being another factor that limits some families from reading more, remember that our community libraries allow us to borrow books at no cost. Yard sales and consignment events are other options also available to help cut the cost of books down tremendously.

We all live busy lives these days, but we should never be too busy to invest in the future of our children. It is never too late to start to read to your child. Even if your child is old enough to read independently, sit down with them and take turns reading to each other. This quality time is beneficial to you both and will never be regretted.


A native of Conway, Katelin Whiddon is a family nurse practitioner at Central Arkansas Pediatrics. She and her husband, Daniel, have two daughters. A graduate of the University of Central Arkansas, she has her bachelor’s and master’s degrees.