When I was a very young girl, my parents and grandparents always set aside a few moments of quality time to read me a story. I knew from the beginning that reading was something extraordinary. My grandmother would read ‘The Color Kittens’ to me every time I asked, despite my multiple requests. Not only did she help build my love for reading and ability to read and write, but the time she gave to me was a gift that can never be replaced. Thankfully, I can say the same thing about my parents. I fell in love with books, that feeling of losing yourself in another place, and the cozy-warmth of being close to a loved one. My sons share the same love of reading. They each have different tastes in material, but by finding books that fit their interests, it allowed them to explore their own worlds in their imaginations.

The problem now is many children are focused on electronics that provide them with quick gratification — video games, computer games, etc. What children are losing is the connection with a parent or caregiver, patience and understanding, and lacking the common knowledge that comes with being able to enjoy and focus on literary work. As a single parent in a technology-based world, I completely understand the convenience of allowing a child to have electronics. But, what we have to do as parents, caregivers and society as a whole, is to keep the love of reading alive. Even looking back on my busiest days, I remember putting aside as little as five minutes to read a book to my sons. That connection is phenomenal. It also enabled me to help build their vocabulary, speech and word recognition, and overall confidence in their school work.

“Children develop literacy skills and an awareness of language long before they are able to read. Since language development is fundamental to all areas of learning, skills developed early in life can help set the stage for later school success. By reading aloud to their young children, parents help them acquire the skills they will need to be ready for school.

Young children who are regularly read to have a larger vocabulary, higher levels of phonological, letter name, and sound awareness, and better success at decoding words. The number of words in a child’s vocabulary can be an important indicator of later academic success. Children’s vocabulary use at age three is a strong predictor of language skill and reading comprehension at age 9-10. Further, vocabulary use in first grade can predict more than 30 percent of eleventh-grade reading comprehension.

Children who lack a strong foundation of language awareness and literacy skills early in life are more likely to fall behind in school, and are more likely to drop out. Shared parent-child book reading during children’s preschool years leads to higher reading achievement in elementary school, as well as greater enthusiasm for reading and learning. In an international study involving 15-year-olds from 14 developed countries, students whose parents read books with them regularly during the first year of primary school scored an average of 14 points higher on a comprehensive reading assessment.” (childtrendsdatabank.org).

Many children aren’t as fortunate to have a parent or caregiver read to them. The parent(s) may feel they don’t have enough time because they work a lot or may not understand how imperative reading is to a child’s success. Even if you don’t have children or have older children who enjoy reading on their own, visit a local school or library — many welcome guest readers and encourage reading aloud because of the recognized benefits. If you share the gift of reading with a child, you are giving them a gift that will last a lifetime.

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