This past week, while listening to the keynote speaker at a literacy institute where I presented, I was reminded of the importance of daily reading time. For a child, daily reading time begins in the womb and lasts until he/she moves out of the house. At various stages of a child’s life, the reading takes on different forms.
From the womb until about 8 months, the importance of reading to a child is for him/her to hear language and form parental bonds. She/he is becoming familiar with the sound of their loved ones’ voices as well as hearing the patterns of spoken language. Once a child can easily sit on their own, “lap reading” starts. In the beginning, you want to choose sturdy, colorful books containing rhyming patterns and vivid pictures. Once my own children began talking, they enjoyed the “first 100 words” books which had a real picture and word accompanying it as the books helped to build vocabulary for daily objects.
Around the age of two, children become interactive with books and develop favorites. No matter how many times you have heard Brown Bear, continue to read it to your child. Also, encourage their “reading” of the book as memorization of story is an initial reading concept. If you do not have a library card for your local public library, I suggest getting one. Many libraries have “story time” for children age 18 months to five years. Not to mention, trips to the library make for a fun, no cost outing with your child.
Once a child enters school, teachers support reading by sending materials home with children at a level they can read independently or with little support. However, do not neglect “lap reading” to your child for books he/she selects as you to instill a love of books not just reading for learning’s sake. About second grade, a child is able to read more books from the library on their own. Use “lap time” as a time for your child to read to you; though, they still might want you to read to them so enjoy that time while it lasts.
In the fourth grade, texts children read are more sophisticated with complex plot lines and intriguing topics. At this point, you might begin having “book club” with your child. This is when you both have a copy of a book which you read silently, but then at select points you discuss the text. Share with your child your thoughts about characters and plot line, predictions about what you think might happen next, and feelings the story evokes. Also, talk about how the text reminds you of other books you have read, similar situations which have occurred in your life, or events encountered in the world.
The book club format will last until your child leaves the house. However, a child is never too old to be read to, so make sure you do that from time to time. Do not feel as if you child always has to choose the book for your book club, especially once she/he enters high school. Use this time to share your favorite books with your child. Be sure to explore a variety of genres. Your example is how your child develops a literate world.
The adage, “Practice Makes Perfect,” applies to reading. The more you read the better reader you become. Anderson, Wilson, and Fielding studied the amount of time a child read and the effect it had on academic performance for their technical report (and later published article) Growth in Reading and How Children Spend Their Time Out of School. They found the more reading a child does, the higher he/she scored on standardized tests. The table below is from their technical report and shows the importance of reading for the success in school.
So, take time each day to read with your child.