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Why You Should Make Reading a Priority at Home

Saturday, April 14, 2012


“Children who are not spoken to by live and responsive adults will not learn to speak properly. Children who are not answered will stop asking questions. They will become incurious. And children who are not told stories and who are not read to will have few reasons for wanting to learn to read.” – Gail E. Haley, Caldecott Medal Winner

Being able to read proficiently is the crucial prerequisite to becoming successful in life. Many of the people who built this nation and made enduring contributions to society had little or no formal education: George Washington, Patrick Henry, Abraham Lincoln, Walt Whitman and millions of other ordinary citizens. However, once they could read, they acquired the knowledge they needed to be productive workers and good citizens. The more that they learned the more they wanted to learn.

As a parent, make reading a priority in your home! Parents, let’s take the time to read to our children. For those busy parents willing to read but unable to find the time to do it. Let me remind you we are only talking about 20 minutes a day to read to your child. The problem is not time, but simply a matter of priorities. We all find time to do many other things during the day – talk on the phone, run to the mall, drive to pick up lottery tickets and so on. Let’s make sure we set aside time to read to our children.

Encouraging reading is not only for the moms in the house but for the dads out there as well. We need to convince our males that not only can we build better athletes, but literate ones, too. A father can play catch in the back yard after dinner and still have time to read to his child. Please keep in mind that the only thing of lasting value you can give your child is your time and the memories of the time that you shared together.

A commission created by the National Academy of Education and the National Institute of Education to find out what works in reading spent two years of research in the 1980s and published Becoming a Nation of Readers. Among its findings was the statement, “ The single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children…. It is a practice that should continue throughout the grades.” The commission emphasized that reading in the home as well as in the classroom must take place if we are to become a nation of readers.

This certainly makes sense, so what causes reading NOT to take place in the homes? Let’s look at the many distractions in the home environment:
• According to research 98% of the homes in our country have a television set, and it’s on for over 7 hours a day.
• Our nation’s three year olds are watching as much TV as the ten year olds – 30 hours a week. Add that to the number of hours spent watching videos and the average kindergarten graduate spends over 6,000 hours watching television. That’s more time than it takes to obtain a bachelor’s degree!
• Over 65% of teenagers own their own television set, and it’s in their bedroom.

Thus, the competition is enormous, but as parents we need to sell the joys of reading. It must start with reading to our children. It is the best advertisement for it allows a child to sample the delights of reading and shows him that reading is a wonderful experience.
Children need to feel the joy of listening to a story that peaks their interest and gets them to want to read themselves. We need to make sure that children are learning how enjoyable it is to read, for so many times children are learning to be school time readers but not lifetime readers. What this means is that children are reading to do their daily assignments, but not enough reading is taking place to turn them on to want to read during leisure time. Many times the poorest readers receive the heaviest dose of skill instructions and spend the least amount of time on the reading. Thus, we need to balance the skills with the love for reading if we are to have an effective program.

Read to your child and make reading a priority in the home. So, let’s get to some suggestions you can do the encourage reading.
• Spend a morning exploring the library with your child. So you’re working, well how about a Saturday? Meet the librarians and find out about special events like story time and of course sign your child up for a library card. One of the best things about the library is that it’s free. The library is the biggest bargain that we have in this country!

• At the library, stick to what your child likes to read or likes to hear you read. If he liked Harry Potter, he may also enjoy books that either create new worlds or that look at time or place in new and interesting ways. You may want to ask the librarian about other books that can capture the imagination of your child.

• Be a reading role model. Make sure that your children see you reading. Have lots of reading material around (newspapers, magazines, books, etc.)

• Read in unusual places – under a tree, on the floor, in the park, in a tent, upstairs, downstairs and don’t leave home without a book.

• Have a reading party with your children and their friends. You can also turn it into a book character party with everyone dressing up as a book character.

• If your child is struggling in reading to you then read the book to your child first and then read it together. Many parents think that struggling is normal and books should be hard. This is not true. Reading is supposed to feel good to the child. When it does, they’ll become readers. We all repeat things that are pleasurable.

• If you have a reluctant reader in your home, ask a librarian to recommend some high-interest, age appropriate material and share some fun parts of it. If your child likes a movie, bring home the book. Interest in a topic is what counts!

As research points out, children improve their reading ability by reading often. Reading achievement is directly related to the amount of reading children do in school and outside of school. Thus, be sure that reading takes place in your home each and every day and be sure to see what the schools are doing to encourage reading at home.


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