Reading with kids helps speed up mental, social development

As stay-at-home orders become more common, parents are asked to keep their children reading. Those who read more usually are more mentally and socially developed, an Extension agent notes.



March 31, 2020 - 10:17 AM

Jessy Coffield, Iola preschool teacher, reads to children at Ready Set Learn preschool Wednesday as Sheri Orear, owner, watches. The Dolly Parton Imagination Library recognizes the value of reading to children from birth to age 5 and will now send free, high-quality books to every child in Allen County each month, courtesy of the Iola Rotary Club and Talk, Read, Play Allen County. Photo by Vickie Moss

What we have discovered through the COVID-19 situation — social distancing, stay-at-home spring break, and the announcement of schools closing — is that there are many learning opportunities right at our fingertips.   

Bradford Wiles, a K-State Research and Extension specialist in early childhood development, says children’s education happens right at home every time they read a book with their parents. “Reading with a child involves thoughtful and active listening to assess and assist the child’s knowledge,” Wiles said. 

Wiles has written a publication that outlines six ways in which parents can build their child’s cognitive and social-emotional skills while reading with them: 

1)    Ask questions in a mindful way that help you assess your child’s thinking, such as “Do you know what color that is?” or “Do you know what this is called?” Challenge your child to really think about what they are experiencing. 

2)    Provide explanation or instruction to build on what children already know. Sometimes children need just a single piece of information to fully understand something they were not previously aware of. 

3)    Model learning. When reading with a child, sound out words so that your children learn how to look at the print and determine how a word sounds. You can also mimic what you see — flap your arms to imitate how a bird flies. 

4)    Provide feedback. Comment on your child’s performance by saying “You did a good job. You used to struggle with that” or “That’s better than you did the last time.” Provide the “because” to explain why the child did well. 

5)    Help your child maintain focus. Young minds may wander quickly. When reading, offer choices such as a finishing a page before doing something else, stopping now, or skipping ahead to help your child stay engaged. 

6)    Structure the activity. Explain to your child that you are going to read and think about the story together. This helps the child develop a shared focus in the story. 

 For more information or tips checkout Emergent Literacy: Helping Young Children’s Development Through Reading, available free online through the K-State Research and Extension bookstore. ( 

K-State Research and Extension has compiled numerous publications and other information to help people take care of themselves and others during times of crisis. Visit the Southwind website ( for a list of resources with relevant information relating to COVID-19 and food safety.  You can also follow us on Facebook @southwindextensiondistrict or Instagram Southwind_ext