One of the most apparent indicators of a child’s academic, intellectual, social, and emotional strength is summed up in a single question: Does your child read? Access to books is easily the most empowering gift you can give to your child.

When someone reads to a little child, the child learns several vital skills that will help with basic developmental skills. First and foremost, the child learns to listen. The ability to pay attention to what someone else is saying and process that information is an important learning skill for children. Learning to understand other perspectives and listen to what others have to say is a basic milestone in early childhood. As a child gets older, listening to stories enables him to infer deeper meanings of a character’s actions. When a child talks about a story he’s heard or read, he is building a common base with others. Even the act of listening to a story can be used as a teaching moment, showing a child how to actively engage as a listener.

Books teach children how to communicate. Literature exists because people need to tell their stories, whether it be about the dinner they just ate, their bus ride to school, or the bird they saw sitting on top of the mailbox. As your child develops, you want him to communicate with you. To tell you what he needs and why he needs it. To explain how he feels. To describe situations to you. Reading stories, providing a child with a variety of perspectives on different topics, helps your child to become a better communicator.

An avid reader typically has a strong vocabulary. A child who is exposed to words regularly has a greater grasp of language. That child will be exposed to words in stories and be able to transfer new vocabulary to everyday conversation. Once again, improving that child’s ability to communicate.

Reading can also help children to improve their fine motor skills and their hand-eye coordination. Whether he is reading a paper book or an ebook, a child needs to be able to move or click through pages. This simple task can make other tasks, from holding a pencil to typing on a computer, much easier in the long run.

Unfortunately, while access to books and reading materials is a key component in a child’s academic, intellectual, social, and emotional development, not all children have ready access to books. GAMECHANGER is trying to change that. Every May, GAMECHANGER hosts an annual children’s book drive to collect books for a local, Westchester organization that distributes books to children in need. This year, for our fifth children’s book drive, GAMECHANGER is teaming with Open Door Medical Center’s Reach Out and Read program to help get books to young children in our area who are not fortunate enough to have books of their own. In addition to collecting books at multiple locations throughout Westchester, GAMECHANGER is working on a bookfair with the Chappaqua bookstore, Scattered Books. For more information on GAMECHANGER’s Fifth Annual Children’s book drive, check out Facebook.com/gamechangernow between now and May 31st.