OK, so I’ll be the first to admit – I am not some high-credentialed, Harvard-educated professor who can impress you with the importance of his words just by how many letters come after his name. The only letters that come after my name are DAD. But I figure those are the most important, (second only to MOM) and I also figure they give me just enough real-life experience to qualify me to write down some of my thoughts on a topic that I feel extremely passionate about: Reading and Literacy.
Did you know that the single-most important thing you can do for your children is to read to them (and with them) for twenty minutes, every day? That’s a bold statement, but as I’ve been researching the topic, I have found amazing statistics and research that convince me it is true.
Consider just a few of the benefits, especially when you start your children at an early age (the recommendation is to start at birth):
- Listening skillls are built
- children learn to sit still and focus
- comprehension and understanding of events (cause and effect relationships) is enhanced
- vocabulary is increased as children discover new words
- a child’s ability to guess meanings of new words grows
- children become more confident because they know they are cared for and loved and becuase they can express their thoughts and needs
- imagination and creativity are encouraged and fed
- children are better-enabled to make friends and good relationships because their communication skills are increased
- learning in all subjects becomes much easier because the brain is literally being wired to learn and take in new information
- and family bonds are strengthened and reinforced, creating an atmosphere of love, trust and communication in the home (which you will be very grateful for when your kids are teenagers!)
If you stop to think about it, it’s pretty obvious that all those things would come as a result of reading with your children every day. What I failed to realize, though, was the sum-total of adding all those pieces together. What is that sum-total? A child who is better-prepared for the world. A child who will excel in almost anything he chooses to do. A child who will earn more in her profession because she read more when she was young and still enjoys reading today.
If you want your child to succeed in life, both socially and economically, commit to giving your children twenty minutes of undivided attention, every day. By reading to your children every day, you empower them with the tools, skills and confidence to not only succeed in life, but to enjoy life.
Here are some of the key statistics and findings I’ve discovered:
“Forty percent of American children enter kindergarten lacking at least some of the skills needed for a successful learning experience. For too many children, the preschool years have left them without the language skills necessary for literacy acquisition.” (Reading Across the Nation: A Chartbook, a study published in Nov. 2007)
“For every year you read with your child, average lifetime earnings increase by $50,000. You make a $250,000 gift to your child from birth to age five by reading aloud, just 20 minutes a day!” (http://www.readingfoundation.org/parents.jsp)
“A kindergarten student who has not been read aloud to could enter school with less than 60 hours of literacy nutrition. No teacher, no matter how talented, can make up for those lost hours of mental nourishment.” ((Source: U.S. Dept. of Education, America Reads Challenge. (1999) “Start Early, Finish Strong: How to Help Every Child Become a Reader”. Washington, D.C.)
“We have learned that for 90% to 95% of poor readers, prevention and early intervention programs…can increase reading skills to average reading levels. We have also learned that if we delay intervention until nine years of age, approximately 75% of the children will continue to have difficulties learning to read throughout high school.” (G. Reid Lyon, Director, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development)
“The effort to teach children to read should begin at birth, and every available resource should be focused on achieving this goal, that at least 90% of all children will read at grade level by the time they enter fourth grade. Right now, in the average school, only about 55% do so.
If we fail to achieve this goal, the cost in later scholastic intervention, in social welfare costs, in crime and incarceration, and in lost economic production is a thousand times greater. And that ignores the loss of self-esteem, the loss of happiness, and the loss of personal potential in the individual lives of literally millions of children.” (http://virtual-institute.us/90%25.htm)
Even the President of the United States recently stressed the importance of this issue when he said, “In the end, there is no program or policy that can substitute for a parent – for a mother or father who will […turn off the TV, put away the video games,] read to their child. I speak to you not just as a President, but as a father, when I say that responsibility for our children’s education must begin at home. That is not a Democratic issue or a Republican issue. That’s an American issue.” (Speech by President Barack Obama to the Joint Session of Congress, Feb. 24, 2009.)
I strongly encourage you to learn more by going to http://www.readingfoundation.org, or simply typing “read 20 minutes every day” into your favorite search engine. The attention this issue is receiving from various organizations (from your local PTA to the national government) is more than enough to convince me. There is a wealth of knowledge and resources available on the subject.
I admit, I have not read to my children as much as I should have, but thankfully, they are still young and I have committed to change my behavior and share with them the wonderful world of words that I love.
I invite you to join the cause, not for the sake of the US economy in some far-off future, but for your own child’s well-being. Do it for your children so they can enjoy life to the fullest, so the world can be theirs to explore and learning will be a joy and lifelong pursuit. And one day, when you see them sitting on the couch with a young child on their lap and an open book in their hand, you will know you taught the lesson well.
Phillip J. Chipping