Okay, before you chase me out of here for stating such an obvious fact, let me tell you what you probably already know, but still bears repeating. Reading aloud to your children—by children I mean from a teeny baby all the way through elementary school and beyond if they’ll let you—a mere twenty minutes a day does wondrous things. Wondrous things are nice, you’re most likely thinking, but how can you squeeze in a daily twenty-minute reading session along with the zillions of other things you are currently doing with your kiddoes while cooking meals, doing laundry, cleaning (if you’re so inclined, I know I’m not), and perhaps working a full-time job outside of the home.
I hear your pain and understand your quandary, but before you shut me out, hear me out. I know you’re busy, when my kids were little, I was too. Despite the crazy schedule, however every evening after dinner before any other activities began, my husband or I read to our kids. We let them choose the books, usually from their school’s reading list, which was a true win-win: they got their required reading done and my husband and I read some great children’s literature. Just because it’s for kids doesn’t mean it’s not good reading. Oh, and if you have to spend the evening in the car racing hither and yon, pop in an audio book. It’s not quite the same as you reading to them, but it’s the next best thing.
There is some serious data behind the importance of reading aloud to your children. Using info from the Department of Education, the nonprofit Reading is Fundamental (http://www.rif.org/us/) suggests that an easy way to help your children learn to read is to read with them, doing so will help children become “proficient readers by 3rd grade.” This was certainly true for my children; they were both strong readers by 3rd grade.
More data comes from one of the most trusted companies in children’s literature, Scholastic, http://www.scholastic.com (who doesn’t remember filling out the Scholastic book forms?). Scholastic has done tons of research on childhood reading from infant to teenagers and calls reading aloud "a gift for time-challenged parents who may feel guilty about missing special moments with their kids." Scholastic suggests parents schedule reading sessions often and use the time to enrich their relationships with their children, as well as build the children’s vocabularies. Again, everybody wins.
As a final bit of data (promise, I’ll stop after this), the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research found that reading three to five times a week to your four and five year olds,
- Puts them miles ahead of those kids not read to on a regular basis
- Increases their vocabulary
- Teaches them about reading by your example
- Increases their attention span
- Boosts their self esteem and communication skills
- Increases the likelihood of them having a strong self-image, a sense of confidence, and higher academic standing, and
- Increases their ability to formulate their thoughts before becoming angry or demonstrative
Okay, now you might be shaking your head muttering, “I know it’s important, but despite all of my reading aloud, my children won’t read on their own. Don’t fret, this is a common problem and one I faced with my children. The answer to this is simple, give them books and magazines about things they’re interested in and enjoy. My son loved fishing and baseball so, with the help of a librarian, I found him books about both. My daughter loved books about girls her age so I read her my old favorites (I still love the Ramona books by Beverly Cleary and the Little House on the Prairie books by Laura Ingalls Wilder) as well as new ones recommended by the librarian.
I also relied heavily on the Newbery lists http://www.ala.org/alsc/awardsgrants/bookmedia/newberymedal/newberymedal
and my state’s award lists. The Texas list is at: http://www.txla.org/reading-lists. Do a search for your own state or ask your librarian.
Some other good places to search for great books to read with your children or for them to read on their own are: the winners of the Caldecott Medal for illustration http://www.ala.org/alsc/awardsgrants/bookmedia/caldecottmedal/caldecotthonors/caldecottmedal Horn Book http://www.hbook.com and Booklist http://www.booklistonline.com. For boys there’s http://www.guysread.com/ and for girls http://www.pbs.org/parents/education/bookfinder/empowering-books-for-girls/
Subscribe to book club memberships and magazine subscriptions. Children love getting things in the mail, so the excitement of having something addressed to them in the mailbox gets them reading. The Hank the Cowdog series by John R. Erickson was an early reader favorite for both my children and the audio books are funny, funny.
Start the love of reading early by having a shelf of books specifically for your toddler. If you don’t have bookshelves, get some. We bought some super inexpensive ones at Home Depot, and by inexpensive I mean under $20.
Take advantage of the public library, by loading up with books every couple of weeks. Libraries are the best resource parents have for finding all sorts of things for their kids to read and do literacy-wise.
I did all of these things and am rewarded with two adult children that love to read, which makes all the effort worthwhile. My book, The End of Normal, released October 6, is geared for readers aged 10 – 14, especially those liking science and adventure books.
Sometimes what you think is normal, is anything but.
Told in the vein of Susan Pfeiffer’s LIFE AS WE KNOW IT and Courtney Summers’ THIS IS NOT A TEST, this new YA novel will appeal to fans of Sci-Fi both young and old. END OF NORMAL is now available at Amazon and Champagne Books. Get to know more about Susan in this exclusive letter to readers...
16-year-old Olivia Richards’ last day of normal is simply that, normal. She spends her entire pre-school morning dressing to impress gorgeous guy Sawyer Rising, the hottest guy in high school. She argues with her mother about her skinny jeans being too tight, which Olivia considers ridiculous because isn’t that the point of skinny jeans? Sometimes her mother makes no sense. Olivia’s normal world also includes her gentle astrophysicist father and her twin brother Charlie, who is deaf. Despite proclaiming that his deafness is no big deal, deep inside Olivia feels it is a big deal and that it’s her duty to protect him.
Olivia’s normal ends that night when strange lights shoot out of the sky and turn into stinging drones, killing their parents, or at least they think their parents die, but do they? Forced to flee, the twins join forces with friends Axel, Clara, and Sawyer, to search for answers to the strange invasion. Discovering a conspiracy to hide the location of a second earth, they search for a way to stop the destruction of their world.
Susan worked as a high school teacher until she thought her head would explode from all the ideas and questions her students asked. Thinking it would be easier; she foolishly switched from teaching to the ridiculous job of professional fundraiser. After spending more years than she wants to admit begging strangers for money, she gathered what pride she had left and enrolled in Spalding University’s MFA program where she became blissfully happy working with other writers and improving her writing. She currently lives and writes in Seabrook, Texas with her husband Mike, Vlad the cat, and their deaf dog Chester.
My first YA novel, END OF NORMAL, will be available October 6, 2014 by Champagne Books and can be purchased through any online bookstore. I am in the process of developing a new, and much better website, but until it’s ready, you can check out my current, rather pitiful site. It has my bi-weekly blog and books I’m working on. My new site will be much better, so bookmark my web address and check back in a few weeks.
Connect with Susan at: http://www.susanarscott.com | https://www.facebook.com/pages/S-C-Arscott/182957018422127 | https://twitter.com/susancarscott | http://www.pinterest.com/susanarscott/