Many caregivers seem to innately know that reading books to the kids in their care is a positive thing. In our house we read books before naps, before bed, and any time the kiddos get a hankering in between.

And sure, we feel like reading to our kids is good and important, but a recent study done in Japan shows just how big of an impact those stories can have on our babies’ futures.

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It turns out it’s a big deal.

The research was published in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics and began by counting the words in 60 popular children’s books. Board books contained an average of 140 words, while picture books contained 228 words. They used the data to calculate the number of words kids hear from books by the time they turn 5.

According to Jessica Logan, the study’s lead author, kids who are read only one book per day start kindergarten having heard 290,000 more words than kids whose parents didn’t read to them at all – and if you read your kid five books per day, they could have heard 1.4 million more words than their not-read-to counterparts.

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She calls it the “million word gap” and believes their findings could help explain differences in both vocabulary size and reading ability between kindergartners.

“The word gap of more than 1 million words between children raised in a literacy-rich environment and those who were never read to is striking. Kids who hear more vocabulary words are going to be better prepared to see those words in print when they enter school. They are likely going to pick up reading skills more quickly and easily.”

About 50% of children are either never read to or hear stories only once or twice every week, and other research agrees that children learn vocabulary words from reading that they wouldn’t hear in normal, everyday conversation.

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This study joins many others that confirm the benefits of reading – there’s even proof that just having books in your home helps with math and digital communication skills.

The bottom line is that if you have kids, you should have books. It only takes maybe 20 minutes out of your day to read to your littles, but you’ll be helping to set them up for a lifetime of success.