Many parents read to their toddlers as a nightly routine. It’s a fun, warm, bonding activity. Of course, it also teaches the little ones new words and engages their imagination.

Yet as children grow up, many parents stop reading aloud. Their children get busy with activities, they go to bed early for school, or perhaps they are staying up later than normal. Whatever the reason, experts actually say we should continue to read to our children as long as possible. Even middle schoolers can enjoy and benefit from reading together.

The benefits of reading daily to children are many:

Reading improves cognitive development. This is especially true for young children since they learn new words at a fast rate, assimilating new information and forming connections.

Reading encourages dialogue. I read almost the entire Magic Tree House series to my son. In doing so, we had amazing conversations about the topic of each book. Can you imagine being in ancient Rome? Would you ever like to swim with the dolphins like that? What would you do if that happened to you?Those conversations encouraged my son to use his imagination (and his words) to discuss possibilities. Discussing what you like and don’t like about a story also helps with comprehension.

Reading improves language skills. Since books often use more colorful descriptive vocabulary than children hear in everyday life, they learn new words as well as new meanings.

Reading encourages fluency. I read to my children many nights, but just as many, we would take turns reading aloud to each other. Reading aloud is something children need to do in school so the extra practice at home, especially in a comfortable setting, reinforces fluency.

Reading together provides a nurturing activity. It’s a bonding time for both parent and child. It gives the child a routine and something to look forward to each night. In families of more than one child, it also provides that special one-on-one time. While some parents read to all the children at once, I preferred to read individually and give each child undivided attention.

Reading encourages a love of books. This is not the case for every child, but they may pick up books again as an adult, once the required reading of school and college end.

Should I add thoughts about screen time? While e-readers are great for reading on the road or having huge libraries of books, there’s something special about an old fashioned page-turning book. I encourage you to get to the library and let your child pick out as many books as you both can carry. The visual of a huge stack in their bedroom also encourages them to read more often.

While there are hundreds of moments I look back on and treasure with my children, our nightly reading is a special time I won’t ever forget. Hopefully, they won’t either.