It’s a snowy day in February and Gitty is curled up on the couch with her children, reading Dr. Seuss’s Oh The Places You’ll Go. “Congratulations! Today is your day! You’re off to Great Places. You are off and away!” All of Gitty’s children, even her third grader, are huddled around the picture book. In some ways, Gitty is just passing the time on this long, cold day. In other ways, she is doing a lot more for herself and her children than just passing time.
Besides the obvious enjoyable elements of reading with your children, there are other benefits:
- Speech proficiency. Simply reading books with rhyme schemes (by authors like Dr. Seuss and Eric Carle) can help reinforce the basic sounds that form language. This helps children with pre-literacy skills as they grow.
- Elementary book skills. 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.
- Strengthening the parent-child bond: With our constantly-moving lives, quiet time is very important. Snuggling up with a book lets your family do just that. Plus, instead of seeing reading as a chore in the future, your child will view it as a nurturing activity that brings the family together.
- Academic excellence. Julie Temple Stan, the director of Early Moments, a company devoted to childhood literacy, writes that “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.
Reading Ages and Stages
As your children get older, you should never stop reading to them, but there are some benchmarks that you should look for to ensure they are lifelong readers.
At this age, reading with your children is essential. You can also point out text in your everyday routine – on the cereal box, on street signs, and in the supermarket. You can also play word games with stamps or stickers, writing out words yourself and then having your child copy them with stamps or stickers.
Additionally, it is important to be aware of potential problems, as early intervention is key to successful remediation. At this age, speech delays are more easily detectable than reading delays, but if your child has trouble identifying rhymes between two simple words or cannot distinguish between random squiggles and letters, it is a good idea to get in touch with your pediatrician.
Get involved with your child’s reading at home by knowing what he is doing in school. If your child was assigned to read a Cam Jansen mystery, take fifteen minutes and read it before bed one evening. When reading becomes a communal activity, it is more exciting and enjoyable. In addition, if your child is reading a book (any book that is appropriate), you shouldn’t pass negative judgment on it (even if it is a silly topic or below grade level). Reading breeds more reading and that is the goal.