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Reading aloud to your kids affects literacy and school readiness

July 18, 2014

Did you know that by the time your child reaches the 3rd grade, experts can reliably predict whether he will graduate high school?

We like to think that opportunities for success are wide open, a blank slate upon which our children can make their mark. However, research shows that there is one very important component of early life that affects academic and career success into adulthood.

It’s their ability to read.

If children haven’t achieved competency in reading by the 3rd grade, their chance at academic and professional success later in life is greatly diminished. And yet, two-thirds of the third graders in this country aren’t competent readers.

What can we, as parents, do about that?

Many of us already know the answer. It’s reading aloud to your children from the very beginning of their lives. By exposing our kids (even infants) to a variety of sounds and words, we are preparing their brains for literacy. We are transforming their minds into fertile soil, so that when the seeds are planted teaching them how to read, those seeds will grow and flourish.

We know that, and yet the real-life practice is easier said than done. Life is busy, and we live in an increasingly digital world. Our kids are watching educational television shows and playing educational games on tablets and iPads. It’s tempting to think that those things are good enough. Don’t be fooled.

Television shows and digital games cannot and should not take the place of reading aloud to your kids.

The has recently developed recommendations that encourage pediatricians to talk to parents about reading aloud to their kids at each and every well-child visit. It has become an area of focus within the medical community because there is an abundance of scientific research showing that children who are read to during infancy and preschool years receive many benefits. They have more advanced language skills and demonstrate early literacy as well as a greater degree of school readiness. Reading with your kids also fosters a nurturing parent-child relationship.

If you’re struggling to incorporate this practice of reading aloud to your kids in your home, here are a few tips to consider:

Figure out what they’re interested in. Find their favorite characters, their favorite animals- let them decide what they’d like to read about.

Make it a daily ritual. Determine the time of day that best fits your family’s schedule, and do it consistently- your kids will thrive in the routine. Is it bathtime, breakfast time, after dinner, bedtime? Pick a consistent time and do it every day.

Show your excitement. Your kids will catch on to your enthusiasm. Find classic books that you read as a kid and share the joy with them. Sing songs and play games. Have fun!

Make a trip to the library a special treat. Trips to the library can be exciting! Find out about preschool story times at your local library. Ask your librarian which books kids love. Let your kids know that when they go to the library, they can learn about anything they want. Make it an extra-special, fun place for them to visit.

In the end, the most important thing that we can teach our kids about reading isn’t simply how to do it. The most important thing is to teach them to love reading. We can do that by sharing in the joy of reading with them each and every day.