Latest update: May 26th, 2013
“Mommy, can you read me the book, again?” Shmuel asked his mother, holding up The Little Engine That Could.
“Of course, Shmuel. Let’s do that,” Chevy smiled. She was tired from a long day, but with her four kids huddled around, she was happy to sit and read in the living room.
“Chug, chug, chug. Puff, puff, puff. Ding-dong, ding-dong. The little train rumbled over the track,” Chevy began.
When I talk to parents about reading to their young children, they often tell me how important it is to them because they feel they are educating their children. Of course, that’s an essential benefit of reading, but research has shown that there are multiple advantages to reading to your children when they are young.
Stronger parent-child relationships. With our lives constantly on the move, you need some time to slow down and just quietly be together. Snuggling up with a book lets your family do just that. Plus, instead of seeing reading as a chore, your child will view it as a nurturing activity that brings the family together.
Speech skills. Simply reading books by Dr. Seuss or Maurice Sendak can help your child reinforce the basic sounds that form language. This later helps children with pre-literacy skills as they grow.
Basic book knowledge. Children do not automatically know that books are read from left to right or that you hold a book and turn the pages as you go. As simple as that may seem, this early knowledge will help your children once they start encountering books in school.
Academic excellence. Julie Temple Stan, the director of Early Moments, a company devoted to childhood literacy, writes “numerous studies have shown that students who are exposed to reading before preschool are more likely to do well in all facets of formal education. After all, if a student struggles to put together words and sentences, how can he be expected to grasp the math, science, and social concepts he’ll be presented with when he begins elementary school?”
Superior concentration and discipline. With so many new cases of ADHD reported each year, it is important to help children learn how to sit still. When children begin reading at a young age, along with comprehension comes more self-discipline, a longer attention span, and better memory retention.
The Reading Rules
Because reading is such an integral part of our education and our lives, it is essential that we get our kids reading. Karen Powers, a writer, teacher and librarian, provides parents with foolproof rules that she guarantees will get children to love read on their own.
Create the right environment. Just like people cannot learn to cook without ingredients, so too children cannot learn to read without books. Surround your children with books both in the home and outside of it. A study in Australia showed that children who have more than thirty books of their own were more likely to enjoy reading than those who had few books. If you can’t afford to buy a lot of books, check out second-hand and used books stores.
Be a role model. If you want your children to speak respectfully to others, you teach them by speaking respectfully to others. The same goes for reading. If you want to teach your children to read, spend time reading yourself. Let them see you reading and enjoying your time with books. You are a role model for them in everything you do – reading included.
It is a good idea to familiarize yourself with the books your children are reading. Additionally, set aside a designated time for reading in your household – maybe getting into bed a half hour early to curl up with a book.
Read to them. As I discussed above, reading to your children has numerous benefits. One of those benefits includes instilling the idea that reading is a nurturing and exciting experience. Everybody loves a story. Even older children enjoy being read to – with dramatic pauses and cliffhangers. The more you read to them, the more they will enjoy reading themselves.
Redefine book. Many parents only define books as print books or novel; however, the benefits of reading come from sustained reading rather than reading long fictional books. Therefore, as Karen Powers points out, the Guinness Book of World Records, a seemingly simple non-fiction book can be a great way to get boys reading for lengthy periods of time. This, in turn, helps them become reflective about their reading, which develops critical thinking skills.Rifka Schonfeld
About the Author: An acclaimed educator and social skills specialist, Mrs. Rifka Schonfeld has served the Jewish community for close to thirty years. She founded and directs the widely acclaimed educational program, SOS, servicing all grade levels in secular as well as Hebrew studies. A kriah and reading specialist, she has given dynamic workshops and has set up reading labs in many schools. In addition, she offers evaluations G.E.D. preparation, social skills training and shidduch coaching, focusing on building self-esteem and self-awareness. She can be reached at 718-382-5437 or at email@example.com.
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