shocked baby one million word gap books to read to kids

One Million.

That’s the number of fewer words heard by many kindergarteners who were not read to prior to starting school.

A study conducted by the Ohio State University (April 2019)* discovered that children, newborn to age 5, whose parents read five books to them daily will hear around 1.4 million more words than children who are never read to.

Let that sink in. One. Million. Fewer. Words. Heard. If a child is never read to.

You may be thinking—but five books?! Isn’t that a bit much? Not really, no. According to Early Childhood News, the professional resource for teachers and parents, “it is recommended that each classroom plan to have at least 4 books per child available at all times”. So, if schools are preparing to have about as many books, shouldn’t parents?

You don’t have to read them all at once; break the reading up throughout the day. For this age group (newborn to age 5) nap times are fairly common and when a child doesn’t nap, then “quite time” takes its place. Leading up to this timeframe, prepare your child for their nap or designated quite and relax time by reading two books.

Then, before bed read three more. At this age, the books are fairly simple and short, so five books throughout the day won’t consume that much time but will prepare your child for a more advanced vocabulary when they start school.

The study also gives parents some piece of mind—even if you read only one book a day, your child will hear 290,000 more words by kindergarten than if you never read to them. That’s still quite the advantage.

Surprisingly, talking to your child constantly throughout the day does not hold the same weight as reading a book. Logan, a member of the Ohio State’s Crane Center for Early Childhood Research and Policy, reports alongside the study that, “This isn’t about everyday communication. The words kids hear in books are going to be much more complex, difficult words than they hear just talking to their parents and others in the home.” In addition to these important vocabulary words, such as repetitive sight words or new words that would not be a part of a regular conversation, there is also the opportunity for additional learning and grasping of the vocabulary through “extra-textual” discussions about the book.

Benefits of Reading to Your Child Early

Children who are read to at a young age hear more vocabulary words. In turn, they are more prepared to register the meaning of those words when they see or hear them at school. This makes it much easier for your child to understand sight words and pick up reading skills faster.

Additionally, child who are read to by their parents have improved behaviors, communication, and interpersonal relationship by learning through bonding with their parents. You can read more here about how a child’s behavior can benefit from a few bedtime stories—and even yours!


Ohio State University. “A ‘million word gap’ for children who aren’t read to at home: That’s how many fewer words some may hear by kindergarten.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 4 April 2019. <>.