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Granite State Rumblings: Why You Should Take Time Every Day To Read To Your Children

Mother reading to children (Neeta Lind Flikr)

Mother reading to children (Image Neeta Lind on Flikr)

Have you seen those bumper stickers that say, Read Aloud to a Child Every Day? Does reading aloud to a child really matter?

YES! And here is why:

Reading aloud helps children acquire early language skills.

  • Reading aloud is widely recognized as the single most important activity leading to literacy acquisition.  Among other things, reading aloud builds word-sound awareness in children, a potent predictor of reading success.
  • “Children who fall seriously behind in the growth of critical early reading skills have fewer opportunities to practice reading. Evidence suggests that these lost practice opportunities make it extremely difficult for children who remain poor readers during the first three years of elementary school to ever acquire average levels of reading fluency.” Torgeson, J. Avoiding the Devastating Downward Spiral, American Educator. (2004)
  • Reading aloud to young children is not only one of the best activities to stimulate language and cognitive skills; it also builds motivation, curiosity, and memory. Bardige, B. Talk to Me, Baby! (2009), Paul H Brookes Pub Co.
  • Reading aloud stimulates language development even before a child can talk. Bardige, B. Talk to Me, Baby! (2009), Paul H Brookes Pub Co.
  • Research shows that the more words parents use when speaking to an 8-month-old infant, the greater the size of their child’s vocabulary at age 3. The landmark Hart-Risley study on language development documented that children from low-income families hear as many as 30 million fewer words than their more affluent peers before the age of 4. Hart, B. Risley, T. Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experiences of Young American Children (1995), Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co.

Reading aloud helps children develop positive associations with books and reading.

  • The nurturing and one-on-one attention from parents during reading aloud encourages children to form a positive association with books and reading later in life.
  • Reading aloud is a proven technique to help children cope during times of stress or tragedy.
  • Reading aloud is a good way to help a child acclimate to new experiences. As your child approaches a major developmental milestone or a potentially stressful experience, sharing a relevant story is a great way to help ease the transition. For instance, if your little one is nervous about starting preschool, reading a story dealing with this topic shows her that her anxiety is normal.

Reading aloud helps children build a stronger foundation for school success.

  • “What happens during the first months and years of life matters, a lot, not because this period of development provides an indelible blueprint for adult well-being, but because it sets either a sturdy or fragile stage for what follows.” J.S. Shonkoff & D. Phillips, Eds., From Neurons to Neighborhoods: The Science of Early Childhood Development (2000), Washington D.C.; National Research Council & The Institute of Medicine, National Academy Press.
  • Once children start school, difficulty with reading contributes to school failure, which can increase the risk of absenteeism, leaving school, juvenile delinquency, substance abuse, and teenage pregnancy – all of which can perpetuate the cycles of poverty and dependency.
  • Reading aloud in the early years exposes children to story and print knowledge as well as rare words and ideas not often found in day-to-day conversations or screen time.
  • Reading aloud gives children the opportunity to practice listening – a crucial skill for kindergarten and beyond.
  • Reading aloud to a child gives them the basics of how to read a book. Children aren’t born with an innate knowledge that text is read from left to right, or that the words on a page are separate from the images. Essential pre-reading skills like these are among the major benefits of early reading.
  • Reading aloud helps them develop more logical thinking skills. Another illustration of the importance of reading to children is their ability to grasp abstract concepts, apply logic in various scenarios, recognize cause and effect, and utilize good judgment. As your toddler or preschooler begins to relate the scenarios in books to what’s happening in his own world, he’ll become more excited about the stories you share.

Reading aloud is, according to the landmark 1985 report “Becoming a Nation of Readers,” “the single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading.”

Despite this advice, however, some educators and many parents don’t read aloud to children from a young age and thus fail to nurture avid and skilled readers. Indeed, this is especially true for children in low-income families. According to the Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics, only 48 percent of families below the poverty level read to their preschoolers each day, compared with 64 percent of families whose incomes were at or above the poverty level. Children from low-income families are also less likely to have exposure to print materials.

So this summer have some fun, free time with your child. Visit the library and get some books. Then in addition to the usual reading places—a couch, an overstuffed armchair, a child’s bed—consider less traditional ones:

  • Outside under a shady tree, in a sandbox or a hammock, or at a nearby park.
  • Toss a sheet over a clothesline or table to create a reading hideaway.
  • Keep a book in the glove compartment of your car for long road trips or traffic delays.
  • Spread a blanket on the floor for an indoor reading picnic.
  • Use your imagination. Almost every room in your house offers exciting reading possibilities.

Happy reading!

OUR FAVORITES

Image Vivid Image Flickr

Image Vivid Image Flickr

A few weeks ago I asked you to tell me what is on your list of great children’s books. Here’s what I heard from some of you (in no particular order):

The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey
Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst, illustrated by Ray Cruz
Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin, Jr., illustrated by Eric Carle
Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina
The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss
Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Clement Hurd
Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish, illustrated by Fritz Siebel
Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White, illustrated by Garth Williams
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin, Jr., and John Archambault; illustrated by Lois Ehlert
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Curious George by H.A. Rey
Ramona the Pest by Beverly Cleary
Pierre: A Cautionary Tale in Five Chapters and a Prologue by Maurice Sendak
Olivia by Ian Falconer
Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans
Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! by Mo Willems
Corduroy by Don Freeman
Swimmy by Leo Lionni

Here are a few of  6 year old Spidey’s favorites:

Skippyjon Jones by Judy Schachner (any of the stories in the series)
There Goes Ted Williams: The Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived by Matt Tavares
Nighttime Ninja by Barbara DaCosta
Puff the Magic Dragon by Peter Yarrow, Lenny Lipton and Eric Puybaret
Chicka Chicka abc by Bill Martin, Jr. and John Archambault

Want to find some books written by or illustrated by Granite Staters? Check out the list here.

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About MaryLou Beaver

New Hampshire Campaign Director Every Child Matters Education Fund
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