Forget the Expensive Classes -- If You Want to Raise Successful Kids You Only Need to Do This


Parents are often looking to give their children a leg up in life, an edge above the competition. Entire industries have been created to feed into this parental desire -- including Mandarin Chinese classes and violin lessons for toddlers. Yet research shows the best predictor of a child's future success is their vocabulary, and the best way to expand it is through reading.


The study showed that children with larger oral vocabularies at age 2 arrived at Kindergarten better prepared academically and socially than their peers with smaller vocabularies. The results further support the American Academy of Pediatrics policy that all pediatricians should support literacy beginning at birth. 

Anyone with a toddler knows how maddening it is to be handed a well-worn copy of The Hungriest Caterpillar for the 100th time, but the benefits to their small brains are exponentially greater than your minor frustration. And if you think reading isn't important until a few years later, when they can recognize words or letters on their own, you'd be underestimating the power of these books. The study shows significant gaps in vocabulary levels even as young as the age of 2.

Parents who engage with their child all day may think their own vocabulary is enough, but science says otherwise. The language found in picture books contain more unique word types than an average conversation with your 2-year-old. The study's lead author, Jessica Montag, an assistant research psychologist at the University of California, Riverside, said:

Books contain a more diverse set of words than child-directed speech. This would suggest that children who are being read to by caregivers are hearing vocabulary words that kids who are not being read to are probably not hearing.

This increases their vocabulary, and in turn, their chances for a successful adult life. And let's be honest -- it's easier to accomplish than learning to speak a foreign language or play an obscure musical instrument in order to work with your child. 

More from The Stir: Ways to Raise a More Creative Kid

In our house, our bookshelves are overflowing with board books that my youngest is outgrowing by the day. We donate these gently used books to our local homeless shelter in the hopes that no child has to grow up without knowing the pages of an Eric Carle book. If you're having trouble getting your hands on books to read, ask your pediatrician. There are now countless programs across the country that want to support parents and children reading together. 

I remember vividly the desire to rush through bedtime stories after a long and exhausting day. My little boy's request for "more?" as he held up another book in his pudgy hand was in direct conflict with my need to veg out on the couch with no one climbing on me or touching me. Some days one book has to be enough, but on the days when you can muster a few more fumes to push through My Truck Is Stuck one more time, remember that you are adding value to your child's future without spending a dime. 

Image via Nolte Lourens /shutterstock

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