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Researchers at Ohio State University randomly selected 30 of the most frequently checked-out children's books from the Columbus Metropolitan Library. Then they counted the number of words in each book.
On average, board books contained 140 words and picture books 228 words. If you read five board books a day to your child from birth through his third birthday, and then five picture books a day for the next two years, he would hear 1.4 million more words than a child who has never been read to, the researchers calculated. (They assumed the children whose parents reported never reading to them might still be exposed to at least one book every couple of months.)
This study was motivated by an earlier study, by the same author, in which half of the children from a national sample had reportedly never or seldom had a book read to them.
Does five books a day sound like too much? Don't worry. Even reading just one book a day would result in your child hearing almost 300,000 more words than children who are rarely read to. And reading just one book three to five times a week would still result in exposure to more than 169,000 unique words, according to the study published in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics.
This estimate is probably conservative, the authors noted. Parents often add commentary to stories as they read them, which results in children being exposed to even more vocabulary.
Words in a book tend to be more varied than those in everyday conversation, lead author Jessica Logan said. If you read a book on penguins in Antarctica, for example, you will introduce your child to words that wouldn't typically come up in everyday conversations (unless, perhaps, you live in Antarctica).
Hearing words early in life improves children's vocabulary and better prepares them for learning to read those words when they get to school, Logan said. As a result, they may learn to read more quickly than kids who don't have such a broad vocabulary, she explained.
For more great ideas on preparing your child to excel at reading and how to choose engaging books, check out our tips on how to raise a reader.
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