Reading with your kids is the most important thing you can do for their success in school.
Of all the parent-child activities, reading aloud provides the richest exposure to language, and is the single-most important thing we can do to strengthen school readiness and build a strong foundation for our children’s future educational success.
It’s true! Numerous studies show that an early (and regular) exposure to books before our kids head off to school is the biggest predictor for students who will be successful in reading.
In fact, children who are read to at least three times a week by a family member are almost twice as likely to score in the top 25% in reading compared to children who are read to less than 3 times a week. (Denton, Kristen and Jerry West, Children’s Reading and Mathematics Achievement in Kindergarten and First Grade, U.S. Department of Education, NCES, Washington, DC, 2002.)
I am a teacher, so I know these statistics. They play out in my classroom daily. I am fairly sure I can run down my classroom list and easily tell you who of my students are read to on a regular basis, and who perhaps, are not.
Now, I don’t say these things to scare you, or even shame you, if you haven’t yet formed a habit of reading to your children aloud. But, if you are anything like me, you want the best for your children. But sometimes, you just don’t know what you don’t know.
So, what should you do?
Where do you start?
Well, that depends on the age of your child. If you are a new mom, start with the board, cloth, or plastic books with little or no words. My kids LOVED the books that had pictures and named objects. Sitting with your child on your lap and making this a part of your daily routine sends the message to your child that this is a safe, comfortable, positive experience, and they will be more likely to associate books with happy feelings all the way through their childhood.
Each child is different. My oldest could sit for very long periods of time, looking at the same books over and over. My youngest was more of a “mover and shaker,” so I had to have a huge stack and flip through the books quickly so as to not lose his attention. (Side note: don’t force your child into sitting and reading, if they are reluctant. Do keep trying, go to the library where there are tons of choices right there within reach. Ask a librarian for books to try for your child’s age. It might take some time, but it will be worth it to keep trying until it does become a positive time you can share together.)
My oldest was reading before he went to kindergarten, but my youngest needed some extra help. In first grade, he was far enough behind, that he had a reading specialist to help him get on track. Even through that temporary struggle he still loved books, he just didn’t want to read them himself.
Our Family Book Club has evolved over time. What started as board books during playtime and bedtime, evolved to my kids getting to choose two picture books, to one picture book and one chapter in a novel, to now where we read mostly novels with picture books sprinkled in now and then. (because, after all, some of those picture books are a HOOT, even for me as an adult!)
My boys and I take turns picking out novels for me to read out loud. Usually, I will pick a childhood favorite, a current best seller, or a classic. Once we finish a book, we will then watch the movie together, if there is one. Our favorites are Holes, the Harry Potter series, and Wonder. We are SO excited about seeing A Wrinkle in Time.
I encourage you to begin a Family Book Club with your children, whether you’re a mom-to-be or your kids are soon to head off to college. Many resources are available at your local library or bookstore. Here is a list of some of our favorite books to give you a few ideas to get started.
Reading to your kids really is the best parenting decision you can make.