Families now are busier than ever, but one fundamental activity can help your child succeed in school and in life – reading to them. Starting early with reading to a preschool aged child engages them with stories and pictures, familiarizes them with words, and helps them to have an easier time in school. However, sometimes parents don’t have time, or are themselves weak readers. Check out these facts about reading and then pick up some tips that can make reading fun for everyone, not just at story time.
Just the Facts about Reading
Kids need to start reading early, and just because they can speak and understand a lot of words, does not mean that their literacy skills are being developed. Moreover, adults who are weak readers can be adept with vocabulary, but still have poor reading skills or even be functionally illiterate. The numbers for literacy as a whole are alarming, and this makes reading to kids – even from birth according to the American Academy of Pediatrics as reported in the New York Times – is vitally important.
The children who are read to from birth hear millions more words and read at earlier ages, getting a jump ahead of their peer group who are not being read to regularly. The differences, even in the Kindergarten years are staggering, with early reading children having twice the vocabulary going into first grade over those whose parents do not read to them on a regular basis.
- There is a significant correlation between literacy and crime, says the National Center for Education Statistics, with 60 percent of inmates in the penal system reading at a fourth-grade level or below. 85 percent of juvenile inmates are classified as functionally illiterate.
- Literacy is also tied to socioeconomic success. 75 percent of people in SNAP and other public assistance programs are reading at the lowest two levels of literacy.
- In contrast, as the literacy rate doubles so does socioeconomic performance, largely because the ability to read at or above grade level encourages children to continue with their education.
- The Literacy project says that 50 percent of Americans have such poor reading skills that they cannot even perform simple tasks such as reading prescription drug labels.
If you’re shocked at those numbers, even if you are not a strong reader, you can make changes for the better in your life and the lives of your children.
Tips to Help Everyone Read More
Well, the first tip is to make reading an enjoyable experience instead of a chore; a special something to be done as a family, or a little “me time” that’s for relaxing and reading.
1. Go with age appropriate books. You don’t expect a toddler to read the first Harry Potter book, though it might interest an 11 year old.
2. Make reading a ritual with younger kids, making 20 or 30 minutes before bedtime something special with a parent and a book. As the child gets older, ask the child to read to you.
3. An inexpensive tablet with one of the good reading apps for kids like Nook can serve as a private e-reader for kids at around grade school age. Many schools are bringing in tablets, or even iPads, to help their youngsters engage and learn from a variety of media.
4. Start an incentive program with special prizes for reading X number of books. The treat can be as simple as a weekly trip for ice cream, or a special day out at an amusement park or other favored attraction.
5. Cater to your kids’ interests – not what you think they ought to be interested in. If your child loves dinosaurs, then get a book of dinosaurs that age appropriate, and line up media that dovetails with the subject.
1. Do not nag. Lecturing and hounding your child, will only engender resentment.
2. Do not get judgmental. The goal here is two-fold – to have the child enjoy reading and to give them confidence.
3. Don’t criticize their choices in reading material. Readying anything is better than reading nothing, even if it’s a comic book.
4. Don’t set a high bar so that they fail right out of the gate. Confident readers take time to grow.
5. Don’t make a crusade out of reading. Nothing turns a kid off faster than an adult sucking all the oxygen out of their natural inquisitiveness. Let them find their own way, and limit yourself to guidance and encouragement.
Finally, remember that sometimes reluctant readers are struggling readers. Reading disorders such as dyslexia is a brain based disorder that significantly effect a child’s ability to read and it can go undiagnosed for years while the child’s confidence deteriorates. If you think your child may have a learning disorder like dyslexia, dyscalculia, or dysgraphia, remediation is vitally important to getting them back on track.