Wayne Lemley: Why you should read with your kids
August 13, 2011
My kids and I do a lot of reading at home, and I think there are many benefits to it. Reading helps kids understand people and things around them much better. Imagine a child growing up with poor reading and communication skills. He may not understand his world very well. How do plants and animals grow? How do cars, computers and trains work? She may not understand some things her friends or teachers talk about. He may not be able to express his feelings or desires very well. Without good communication skills, she may have trouble playing or working with friends.
Reading is the most important thing a child can do to ensure doing well in school. The child who reads well usually understands her teacher and does great school work. The child who reads poorly often stares and daydreams in class. The child who reads poorly by third grade is generally destined for a poor education and poor vocational opportunities. The child who reads exceptionally well will end up with great college choices, scholarships and a great career.
When we read with and teach our kids to read, we are helping our schools and teachers in a tremendous way. Teachers must spend much more time with kids who read and understand poorly.
How can we teach and encourage reading in our homes? You even can start with a 3- to 4-month-old. Show them single words in large print. Talk about the words: "This says 'chair', this says 'hand.'" Spell and sound out words for them and use refrigerator magnet letters. It may seem like your toddler is not understanding, but you'll be amazed at their early literacy six months late.
Read with your 2-year-old. Let him or her choose the books and he or she will love reading with you even more. Take turns reading sentences. If he or she struggles reading the sentence, you should read it again for her or him with clarity and meaning. Help them sound out words. Say the sound of a word's first letter to get him started. Point to words as you read. Talk about the book, the title, the cover and the pictures.
Steamboat has a world-class library and librarians. Every couple of weeks we check out 20 to 25 books for our home. My kids regularly stop and read for 15 to 20 minutes, several times a day.
It is important to read every day with your kids. Playtime, freedom, latitude and toys are all important and help to encourage kid's creativity. But it also is important to put toys away for a while and read. Video games, TV and motorized toys should be put away during reading. They are too distracting for kids to develop great reading skills.
Early reading skills are one of the greatest gifts we can give our kids. Kids sometimes seem like they aren't really learning or reading, but you will be amazed at how well they read a month later, if you read together every day. It is truly a pleasure to sit quietly beside my son or daughter as they read a book. Early reading and reading at home is a wonderful and inexpensive investment in a great academic and vocational future for every child.
Steamboat Springs resident Wayne Lemley is the parent of two Soda Creek Elementary School students and holds a Ph.D. from Brown University. Contact Wayne at email@example.com.
Wayne Lemley has written a number of articles on raising capable children .. http://alumni.brown.edu/lemley.