Books are like passports that open up new worlds for children. There is little debating the fact that, children who are read to at home have a higher success rate at school. Reading to young children promotes language acquisition, literacy development and achievement in reading comprehension, and overall success in school. For young children (ages 3-5), being read aloud to daily by a family member is one of the indicators of success.
A recent GOOD article via this Salon article questioned whether just having lots of books in a house makes a difference in children's performance in school. This seems to be the case: "Children with as few as 25 books in the family household completed on average two more years of schooling than children raised in homes without any books."
The facts from the National Education Association substantiate that young children who are read to, have a heads-up when they start school over children who are not. Twenty-six percent of children who were read to three or four times a week by a family member recognized all the letters of the alphabet. Children who were read to frequently are more likely to count to 20, or higher than those who were not (60% vs. 44%), write their own names (54% vs. 40%), and read or pretend to read (77% vs. 57%). Unfortunately, these numbers are significantly lower for children in families with incomes below the poverty line, as they are less likely to be read to aloud to and have bookshelves filled with books.
As a teacher who has conducted hundred's of parent/teacher conferences, when I asked parents if they thought reading to their kids every day made a difference in their child's learning, there was generally a resounding "yes". But, for some, when we started to discuss their child's reading skills, often even the most well-meaning parent would mention that they were either too busy to read to their child, or they couldn't afford to buy books. While there is no shining substitute for reading to a child, there are ways to encourage reading and a love of reading. Even if you are too busy to read to your child or unable to buy books, check out the ways you can encourage your kids to read.
3 Ways to Encourage Reading if You are Too Busy to Read Aloud to Your Child
1. Ask your child to draw a story picture (even if it is a scribble). Then have them dictate their story to you. Write one sentence that describes the picture. Have them "read" (or memorize) the sentence. Kids love repetition and can learn quickly to associate words with pictures. They will "read" their story over and over to themselves and to others.
2. Leave magnetic letters on the refrigerator for your child to play around with. Here are some eco-friendly wooden magnetic letters.
3. Make an audiotape or podcast of yourself reading a favorite book. Your child can listen to it while you are busy or away.
3 Ways to Encourage Reading if You Can't Afford to Buy Books
1. Take your child to the library. There are story hours for children at most libraries and volunteers that read to children if you can not.
2. Play word games as you walk or drive. Talk about how the sounds are represented by certain letters. Place word labels around your home identify simple sight words like: table, chairs, bed, etc.
3. First Book provides new books to children in need. They are addressing one of the most important factors affecting literacy and making access to books for children available. The motivation behind First Book came about when it was discovered that 80% of preschool and after-school programs serving low-income populations have no age-appropriate books for the children they serve.
There seems to be no way to overestimate the importance of reading for young children. The more children read, the more they learn, the more information and the more reading experiences they are exposed, the more their imagination and creativity are sparked. Every one of my teaching colleagues agreed, that reading to or with a child every day is the single most important thing that can be done to help them succeed.