Notes on Parenting

Insights for parenting babies, toddlers, teens, and young adults.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Importance of Reading

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The other day my husband came home and told me that he had seen an elementary school teacher who had begged of him one thing. I was curious what would be so important to this teacher. She told my husband that if she could ask one thing of him in preparing our children for school, it would be reading to them every day. This was a really good reminder for me. I consider myself to be fairly proactive in this area, but there are times when I get so caught up in the hustle of life, I forget one of the most important things I as a parent need to be doing daily: reading with my children. I do not remember this even being an issue when I just had one child. We read daily just naturally, without even thinking about it. But now life is a little busier and I am realizing that I need to schedule reading into my day to make sure it does not get forgotten.
I know that we all realize that reading is important, but let me share some facts with you to help you remember why it is so critical in our children's development. The following research was compiled by Utah Kids Ready to Read in partnership with the Public Library Association:
  • Knowledge of alphabet letters at entry into kindergarten is a strong predictor of reading ability in 10th grade (Ehri & McCormick, 1998).
  • Children learn reading comprehension skills beginning in infancy. Children who are exposed to books early in life have better language skills than those who are exposed to books later (Payne, Whitehurst, & Agnell, 1994).
  • Studies show that when book interaction is negative (such as "sit still," "listen," or use of other harsh language), the young child enjoys reading and books less. They associate the negative interaction with the book. When the experience of sharing a book is pleasurable and positive for both the parent and the child, it is easier to talk about the pictures and the child will be more attentive and responsive (Bus, Belsky, Ijzendoorn & Crnic, 1997).
  • Reading books to children is a much more effective way to build vocabulary than family conversations or speech heard on the TV (Trelease, 2001).
These findings are a testament to the fact that you reading with your children cannot be replaced by anything else. We have a responsibility to help our children by reading with them. This is a gift that will help them in all facets of their lives. If we fail in this one area, we will put our children at a disadvantage. Here are some ways we can make reading a part of our daily lives: attend weekly story times and check out books at the local library, find a designated time to read together each day (after lunch, before a nap or bedtime, etc.), figure out a reward system where your child is rewarded with a new book for doing extra chores or for getting so many minutes of reading time in, give books for gifts, print off free alphabet worksheets off of the internet, or make a fun spot in your home to read in (some bean bag chairs, a fort, etc.). Please share your comments on how have you incorporated reading into your lives and what has worked best for your child. Happy reading!
Sources: Bus, A., Belsky, J., van Ijzendoorn, M., & Crnic, K. (1997). Attachment and bookreading patterns: a study of mothers, fathers, and their toddlers, Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 12, 81-98.
Ehri, L., & McCormick, S. (1998). Phases of word learning: implications for instruction with delayed and disabled readers, Reading and Writing Quarterly, 14, 135-163.
Payne, A., Whitehurst, G, and Angell, A. (1994). The role of home literacy environment in the development of language ability in preschool children for low-income families, Early Childhood Reasearch Quarterly, 9(3-4), 422-440.
Trelease, J. (2001). Read-Aloud Handbook, New York: Penguin, p. 4.

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