Many studies link children's success at school and later in life to reading, which is motivation enough for parents to put in the effort to have story time in their busy schedules. Reading to kids at an early age helps them to focus and be calmer. There is no such thing as too early, in fact early is good. Colorful pictures capture the attention of kids as young as 18 months. The fact that you are there with them and they have you to themselves is good enough. You can make the experience more interesting with vocal and facial expressions, and different voices for different characters. The more you put in the more they learn about language, feelings, expressing themselves and of course from the story itself.
Age appropriate story books can be found in abundance at the local library and you don't have to run off to buy new books. A trip to the library would be something kids look forward to on the weekend. It allows them to make their own choices and teaches them to be responsible for the books that have to be returned in good condition on time. And when you are at the library you can take a few minutes to get something for yourself, be a good example and let your kids see you read.
Children can learn so much about the world around them from good books; everything from how to behave with others and how to express themselves to food, cultures and customs of children in different countries. Animals and how things work, anything that interests them. They develop the ability to see the broader picture and how to appreciate the diverse world they live in.
It doesn't take a lot of time, just a little planning. A bedtime story helps kids to get settled into bed quickly and it is something they look forward to. So don't rush it, put everything else out of your mind so they know that you really are 'there' with them. It is the fifteen or twenty minutes in your busy day when you can relax and spend meaningful time with your child. You will be the one who guides them on the little journeys you will take together in the books you read. And those journeys will be the ones they remember forever.