Reading: The Importance of Reading Aloud to Your Children


It's easy to argue the importance of reading to your children.The effectiveness of doing so, both in terms of improving your child's literacy and your bond with him or her, seems to be obvious. I read to my son every night for the first six years of his life and that has made a marked difference in the success of his education. How do I know? Because research (like this study and this book) says so. But how important is reading to one's child, as opposed to letting them read on their own or learn from TV, really? Extremely. Paramount even, some would say, because research shows it is a determining factor in a child's academic success, and by extension, their overall success throughout their life.

Indeed, Jim Trelease, author of the definitive book The Read-Aloud Handbook, says this is why reading aloud to your children is important: it conditions your child's brain to associate reading with pleasure, creates background knowledge that makes more reading easier and facilitates academic growth, builds their vocabulary, and provides them with a reading role model. A long-term study of children in poverty found that those who were assigned for five years to a high-quality year-round day-care program focused on language-enrichment had higher IQ's at age 21, made it farther in school, had higher reading achievement, slightly higher math scores, and were twice as likely to go to college and delay having children than those in the study's control group.

It is for reasons like this that the Reading is Fundamental (RIF) organization exists. Just having celebrated its 45th birthday, the national organization works to give books to children in poverty who wouldn't otherwise get them. “We know that books are essential to help children achieve and that one book can spark a lifetime of ambition in a child. Yet, underserved children are facing increasingly daunting obstacles to their path to success,” said Carol H. Rasco, president and CEO of RIF. “In low-income communities, there is only one age-appropriate book per 300 children and statistics show children without access to books are well on their way to becoming one of the 33 percent of fourth graders who cannot read at the basic level. It is clear that we have more than an issue to solve; we have a movement to begin. The time for a reading renaissance is now and RIF is calling on all Americans to join us in leading the charge. Together, we can build a literate America.”

The reason Ms. Rasco makes this impassioned plea is that RIF is experiencing a mid-life crisis of sorts, as Congress recently eliminated $24.8 million of its funding. In response, RIF has launched several new initiatives to ensure their continued ability to get books into the hands of impoverished kids so their parents can read aloud to them. These include a national brand awareness campaign, a new program model called the "RIF National Registry," a multicultural book collection, an expanded effort in the digital realm to create mobile literary experiences for children and families to enjoy while on the go, and a series of literacy grants, customized training programs and local reading celebrations empowering families in underserved communities to develop the skills and confidence to guide their children’s reading, learning and love of books.

RIF's commitment to providing books for children is an example of the type of commitment all parents should have to read aloud to their children every day. We all stand to gain so much by doing something so simple but profound.

How often do you read aloud to your children? How do you make reading fun for your kids?

Photo courtesy of Flickr.

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