Reading to kids: Emotional development

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happy loving family. pretty young mother reading a book to her daughters
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It’s obvious that being read to helps children learn to read for themselves and learn about the world around them. But the benefits of reading to children from a young age extend well beyond improving their reading ability and brain development. Being read to is also a positive emotional experience for children, and helps them develop healthy ways of expressing their emotions. For parents, that adds up to many more reasons to read to children often and from an early age.


Reading is pleasurable, not just because stories are enjoyable, but also because reading time is a special quality time for young children to spend with their parents, older siblings or other caregivers. Babies will enjoy the sound of your voice, particularly as it reads rhythmic, rhyming texts. They’ll come to associate the sound of your voice (and reading) with pleasure and safety. Preschoolers will also enjoy cuddling up with a book, and come to think of reading as a nurturing, pleasurable time.

Healthy emotional expression

If children are worried or having a difficult time, reading a book is a great way to distract their minds from difficult emotions, and focus instead on more pleasant imaginary worlds. Stories about how people feel help children understand themselves and the people around them, and how and why they might feel and act the ways they do. They might also learn that they are not alone, if they read about a character who shares similar emotions, such as feeling nervous about talking in front of the class, or being scared of going to the dentist.
Stories about how other people (or animals, or imaginary creatures like fairies) go about their lives and cope with the problems they face also help children think through how they want to live their lives, and how they will cope with challenges. Young children learn about healthy ways to express their emotions (e.g. talking to others about them) from the stories you read them, which can help them avoid unhealthy expressions of emotions (e.g. tantrums).


Another important emotional benefit of reading to children is that it helps improve reading ability, which in turn gives children a sense of confidence in other areas of learning (e.g. maths and science).

More information

Learn more about the cognitive, emotional and developmental benefits of reading to children here.


  1. International Literacy Association. Make the most of reading aloud. 2017 [cited 22 June 2017]. Available from: [URL link]
  2. Women and Children’s Health Network. Why stories are important. 2017 [cited 16 June 2017] Available from: [URL link]
  3. Abram Reading aloud to children has many benefits. Michigan State University Extension. 2012 [cited 25 June 2017]. Available from: [URL link]
  4. Cornell University Extension Program. Benefits of reading to your child. 2016 [cited 25 June 2017. Available from: [URL link]
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Date Created: August 3, 2018 Date Modified: August 22, 2018