Reading skills boost children's success in school, studies show
CHRISTY SWIFTSometimes the simplest things reap the biggest rewards. If you want to set your children up for success in school and in life, read to them.
Published: December 1, 2012
Published: December 1, 2012
The correlation between how often children are read to at a young age and how well they do in school is remarkable. Numerous studies have replicated the same evidence: reading to your child early and often gives him or her a significant head start.
Jodi Miller is the director of United Way's "Success By Six" program. The program's goal is to help ensure that "all children enter school ready to succeed and ultimately graduate and lead successful lives," said Miller. To that end, United Way is offering free books for parents to take home in child care centers throughout Highlands County. Miller added that reading to children every day triples their chances of graduating.
One research study found that in neighborhoods where children did well in school, 96 percent of families read to their children daily. In neighborhoods where children did poorly in school, 61 percent of kids weren't read to at all. The incidence of reading was strongly linked to income as well. Middle-class families tended to read to their kids, while poor families did not. In fact, researchers found that in neighborhoods where children did poorly in school, most children had not been read to until they were four years old.
"Children who start behind stay behind," warned Miller.
What is it about reading that is so important to children's brain development? There's a long list. Reading to young children expands vocabulary and writing skills, promotes healthy social and emotional development (by cuddling up with a book), develops longer attention spans that translates to better retention in school, enhances imaginative and critical thinking skills and improves memory and concentration.
The way you read to your child matters, too. The children who did best in school had parents who not only read to them, but also talked about the book's content (i.e. text and illustrations) and helped draw connections in the child's life.
There are many concrete ways you can give your baby, toddler or preschooler a head start through the gift of reading.
Read to your child every night at the same time and same place to create a routine, recommended Miller. Don't worry if he chooses the same book every night. He is developing a love of reading.
Make connections when you read to your child. If the story is about a dog, talk about how it looks like grandma and grandpa's dog. If the story is set in a different place, ask your child, "Would you like to go there?"
Set a good example by letting your child see you read books, newspapers, magazines, even signs. You will be showing her how reading is an important part of life.
Share nursery rhymes and songs with her.
Put down your phone and turn off the DVD player. When you have time to kill with your child, talk to him, sing songs and share the gift of language. Miller says there is a big difference between passively receiving information, such as through television, and having an interactive conversation.
Some great books to share with young children are "Bailey," by Harry Bliss; "Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!" by Mo Willems; "Skippyjon Jones Shape Up," by Judy Schuachner; "Good Night Moon," by Margaret Wise Brown; "Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See," by Bill Martin Jr. and Eric Carle; and the "Going to Bed Book," by Sandra Boynton.
Of course, your local library is full of children's books. For more ideas and resources, check out the U.S. Department of Education's pamphlet at: http://www2.ed.gov/parents/academic/help/reader/reader.pdf