When you open a book you enter another world.
One of the best gifts any parent can give a child is the love of reading. The joy of reading begins in early infancy with a baby on the lap and a book of nursery rhymes, and can have a lasting impact on a child into their adult years. In fact, research has shown that the more books kids have access to, the stronger their reading and math achievement.
With all the benefits that reading provides, it is staggering that so much of the country is falling behind. According to the Nation’s Report Card, or the National Assessment of Educational Progress, only 37 percent of fourth-grade students performed at or above the proficient level in 2017. Other studies suggest that 1 in 6 adults under the age of 65 in the United States have literacy skills below a fourth-grade level. Even the basic task of filling out a form — whether for a job application or at the doctor’s office — becomes impossible for a person who can’t read.
These startling statistics go hand in hand with what many teachers say is a greater need for family involvement in children’s education. In a recent nationwide survey of more than 1,000 teachers conducted by Age of Learning, 7 out of 10 teachers felt that parents were not involved enough in their child’s education.
Many of these difficulties stem from having too few books in the home or from parents not knowing how to best help support their child’s reading. Providing access to books and reading with children will foster their love of reading and help them develop the skills necessary to better navigate the future as adults.
So what can families do to foster essential literacy skills? Here are some suggestions:
1. Learn your child’s reading level.
— Ask your child’s teacher about his or her reading level, a measure of reading accuracy, fluency and comprehension.
— Use your child’s reading level to find books that will be interesting and appropriate for the child.
2. Model reading.
— Read aloud at least 15 minutes to your child every day.
— Read books, magazines or digital stories to show your child that you enjoy reading, too.
3. Explain why reading is important.
— Talk daily about how reading impacts your lives by discussing ways you need the skill, such as reading traffic signs, signs at a store, mail or the daily news.
4. Provide what educators call a “print-rich environment.”
— Check out books from the library.
— Label objects around the house with your child.
— Have books available for bedtime stories.
5. Provide books that are high-interest for children.
— This includes books on plants and animals, fables, fairy tales, mysteries, poetry, jokes and riddles.
6. Connect the written word to the spoken word.
— Help children create a journal of stories from their own experiences.
— If your child can’t yet write, have him or her dictate the story, and then the child can draw pictures to illustrate it.
7. Read stories with expression.
— Accentuate sounds and voices when reading stories. This will help children understand the story, its setting and characters.
8. Use digital books.
— Use a tablet or similar device to access digital libraries with thousands of titles while on the go.
— For pre-readers not yet ready for the written word, use digital books that are read aloud to them.
9. Make reading time fun and a joy.
— Create “family time” with books; older siblings can read to younger siblings.
— Create a chart that captures the time spent reading and books read.
It is never too early to read to your baby or young child — and to open up a new world to them.
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