Why Personalized Books Are Better
Personalized books have been around for decades. And who knows how long parents have been tucking their little ones into bed, spinning a tale featuring their lil’ cutie!
There’s good reason for this age-old practice: If you’ve ever made up a bedtime story for your child, grandchild, or favorite niece or nephew, you’ve seen how their face lights up when they hear that they are the star of the story.
In addition to this initial delight, there are several advantages that personalized stories have compared to non-personalized ones:
- Kids engage more with a personalized book.
- Personalized books help children better understand the text.
- Children acquire more new words through personalized texts.
Research proves it!
Personalized children’s books are still relatively new to the book world. It’s only been in the past twenty years or so that the cost of printing of hardcover and softcover personalized books for kids has made this segment of the book industry a commercially viable option for publishers.
As a result of being new to the industry, academic research on the topic of personalized books is not abundant. However, several studies have been completed which highlight the benefits that texts customized for a particular child have over non-customized texts.
But why do these advantages even matter?
As a parent, you want the best for your child. So take note: It’s a widely accepted fact that a child’s brain develops fastest during the first three years of life; so it’s extremely important to stimulate the brain during this period. Additionally, the pre-literacy skills that your child develops in the first years of life can impact their future academic success. (9)
You might think that children can just wait until the get to kindergarten to start working on these skills. While you can, you put your child at a disadvantage. There’s actually a 30 million word gap when comparing children entering kindergarten who have been in a language-rich environment and those who have not. The lack of vocabulary makes reading comprehension more difficult; and studies have found that this gap is difficult to overcome. (8)
This is not to say that you need to sit down with your one-year-old to review sight words. What the research has demonstrated is that it is important to exposure your child to language as much as possible, especially during the early years. But what exactly does that mean?
Take advantage of every opportunity to read and interact with your child
More so than any point in your child’s life, during the first three years, it’s vitally important to immerse your child in a language-rich environment: talk, sing, and read to your child daily. And because reading is so fundamental to learning, don’t put off reading to your newborn – it’s never too early to read to your child.
Even if your child is not ready to learn to read, they can still gain so much from being read to. Learning how to hold a book and turn the pages is the one of the first benefits they will receive from shared reading experiences. Later on, recognizing letters in the words on a page, hearing sounds and rhyming patterns, and developing listening and comprehension skills are some of the benefits your child will reap from being read to.
And if you share a personalized book with your child, they will get more out of the experience than if you share a non-personalized book. Why?
- Kids engage more with a personalized book
Researchers have documented that children react more and more positively to a customized storybook than to a non-customized one. That’s right, kids smile and laugh more and are more vocal when a parent reads a personalized book to them. The researchers believe that it’s the familiarity of the information that causes the child’s more positive reaction. (4)
In the same study, the researchers observed that the adult reading to the young child smiled more at the child when reading a book personalized for their child, compared to when reading a non-personalized book. (4)
This might seem overly simple, but if you engage with a book, you’re enjoying it. And you’re more likely to reread a book if you enjoyed it previously, right? Repetition is key to mastering anything … even discerning the rhyming pattern of a favorite children’s book. Equally important is that when your child giggles, and points to things on the page, it creates opportunities for dialog about the book and teaching moments, thereby making that shared reading time even more valuable.
Reading and comprehension
Once your child is a reader, you will hear a lot about “reading comprehension” from their teachers. A lot goes into being able to fully understand a text. In fact there are six key components (10), one of which directly relates to personalized texts: background knowledge. When we read, we use our existing knowledge to help us better process and understand.
- Personalized books help children better understand the text
Social scientists also believe that children develop a deeper connection with a personalized story than with a non-personalized one. It’s logical that if a story is more relatable to you, you’re likely to develop a deeper connection to the text. In the case of personalized books, they contain some relevant information about a child, which creates the familiarity. It is this deeper connection translates as a better understanding of the material. (6)
The incorporation of familiar information in a text has also been proven in studies to help with a child’s comprehension of the story. As mentioned previously, when we read a text, we relate it to our own knowledge base. The personalized elements in a customizable book can be categorized as background information. It is the familiarity with parts of the book that help a child to better understand the other information in the book as well as help to make deeper connections with the story. (7)
Reading expands your child’s vocabulary & Why this is important
Expanding a child’s vocabulary is especially important as they learn to read. When sounding out a word, beginning readers can recognize that the sounds of the letters on the page sound like a word they have said aloud before; when the sounds of the letters do not represent a word the child is familiar with, the child will have a more difficult time reading that word. (2)
Larger vocabularies help readers of any age with reading comprehension. Think about this: you have to understand what most of the words on the page mean in order to understand the meaning those words are trying to convey. (2)
- Children acquire more new words through personalized texts
Studies have demonstrated that children actually expand their vocabulary more with personalized books. Researchers found that preschool-aged children were able to recall more new words from a personalized texts, compared to non-personalized texts. (3)
If you take nothing away from this post, please let it be that one of the best things you can do for your child is to talk, sing, and read to them from the day they are born! The language gap is very real and can be avoided simply by spending quality time interacting with them.
Of course we do hope that you will add one or more of our award-winning, bilingual or single-language personalized children’s books to your home library to share with your child. It has been scientifically proven that personalized books offer some benefits over non-personalized ones, and we believe that our custom storybooks are the best!
Most personalized books for kids only include the child’s name in the story. In contrast, Snowflake Stories’ entire line of award-winning, customizable children’s books arguably offers the highest degree of customization of any personalized books:
- Choose your cast of characters
- Tailor the appearance of each character
- Select any one to two of five languages
- Make your book a keepsake by including your child’s photo, a sweet note, and a special date on the dedication page
(For a detailed explanation of how to customize a bilingual or single-language personalized children’s book, please click here.)
- “Personalised print books and family literacy outcomes,” National Literacy Trust: Irene Picton, October 2017.
- “Put Reading First: The Research Building Blocks for Teaching Children to Read,” Bonnie B. Armbruster, Fran Lehr, Jean Osborn, The Partnership for Reading, September 2001.
- “Reading personalized books with preschool children enhances their word acquisition,” Natalia Kucirkova, David Messer & K Sheehy; 2014.
- “Parents reading with their toddlers: The role of personalization in book engagement,” Natalia Kucirkova, David Messer & Denise Whitelock; 2012.
- “Early Warning! Why Learning to Ready by the End of Third Grade Matters,” A KIDS COUNT Special Report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, 2010.
- “Untangling the effects of shared book reading: Multiple factors and their associations with preschool literacy outcomes,” A.H. Hindman, C.M. Connor, A.M. Jewkes, F.J. Morrison; 2008.
- “Effect of personalized basal stories on the reading comprehension of
fourth-grade poor and average readers,” B. Bracken, 1982.
- “Early Literacy,” Scholastic.
- “Early Childhood Education: Young adult outcomes from the Abecedarian Project,” F.A. Campbell, C.T. Ramey, E. Pungello, J. Sparling & S. Miller, 2002.
- “6 essential skills needed for reading comprehension,” Andrew M.I. Lee.