Monday, April 6, 2009

For the Love of Reading... READ ALOUD!!!

"What we teach children to love and desire 
will always outweigh what we make them learn." 

The primary gift of a good education is a love of reading. If you can provide the fuel to ignite this flame in your child, the possibilities are endless. The whole world is within his grasp. Not only is he exposed to different elements of language (rhythm, rhyming, language, sounds) and different topics then what may otherwise come up in conversation, but he is also given the ability to self-teach on any topic that peaks his interest. 

Reading is the foundation for most all other learning. Even if your child is science minded, for example, what good is a seventh grade level science book when he can only read on a fifth grade level? He must learn to read well before he can read to learn. Inadequate reading skills are all too common, and stifle all other learning potential. 

What can you do?
  • Get a copy of The Read-Aloud Handbook  by Jim Trelease. Buy it, read it, live it! (Every parent should own this book.)

  • Lead by example, reading for your own enjoyment. If it's been a while, get back in to it, you'll be surprised to find that it's a great, handy hobby. 
  • Read aloud to your children from infancy. Studies show that infants recognize and are calmed by hearing a reading selection that was read to them repeatedly while they were still in the womb! Little ones are comforted by hearing familiar sounds- whether songs or books, so the more you read certain books, the more your baby will like them
  • Don't stop reading to your kids as they get older!!! The pace at which children lose interest in recreational reading correlates directly to when adults (parents and/or teachers) stop reading to them.(8:4) Family reading can continue to be more and more enjoyable as your children grow up. 
  • Change it up! Research shows that those reading the widest variety of materials (including the most fiction!) have the highest literacy scores. It's also good to have a variety of reading material available, like newspapers, magazines, comics, plenty of books, etc. 
  • Read as a family. Not only is this a bonding experience, but your kids also learn to equate reading to comfort and pleasure, making them more likely to choose to read for themselves. 
  • Don't push your children into formal reading training too early! (Read these posts for more info: Early Academics and Teaching Reading
  • "Don't use the book as a threat ("If you don't pick up your room, no story tonight") As soon as your child sees that you've turned the book into a weapon, they'll change their attitude about books from positive to negative."(8:80) 
  • Limit TV viewing & video games. These lower attention spans, hinder creativity, decrease cognitive ability and are associated with lower academic performance. Encourage real life playing and exploration instead. Also, be sure you "don't try to compete with television. If you say, "Which do you want, a story or TV?" they will usually choose the latter. That is like saying to a nine-year-old, "which do you want, vegetables or a doughnut?" Since you are the adult, you choose. "The television goes off at 8:30... if you want a story before bed, that's fine. If not, that's fine too. But no television after 8:30." But don't let books appear to be responsible for depriving the children of viewing time."(8:80) 
  • Instead of limiting books to one or two bookshelves, place several book baskets in various locations around the house, like the bathroom, each child's room, living room, dining table, etc. 
  • Use Rain Gutter Shelving, which is a great, inexpensive way to shelve some books forward-facing. Studies show that this method is a great way to get kids to pick up books of their own accord for pleasure. 
  • When children are able to read themselves, give a set lights-on or bed-lamp reading time before bed each night. "The last 30 years of reading research confirms this simple formula- regardless of sex, race, nationality, or socioeconomic background. Students who read the most also read the best, achieve the most, and stay in school the longest. Conversely, those who don't read much can not get better at it."(8:5) 
  • Encourage relatives to record stories to mp3 that the child can play back while following along in the book. This is a fabulous resource for learning readers!!! After reading this suggestion in the Read Aloud Handbook, I asked my mom and my mother-in-law if they'd like to do it, and both of them were happy to. My kids L-O-V-E listening to Grandma & Nana read their stories!

Building the Vocabulary 
    One of the best pre-school preparations you can do is to build your child's vocabulary. Daily conversation will cover your basic words, but for the millions more words it won't cover, reading is the #1 way to attain them! By age four, a child already understands 2/3 - 3/4 of all the words she will use in future daily life.(8:13)  This is all the more reason to build your child's vocabulary from a young age, making all future learning that much easier! 
    Though the occasional "educational program" can be beneficial, numerous studies confirm that TV is far inferior to reading when it comes to quality and quantity of language acquisition. Besides reading, other great ways to build vocabulary include travel and exploration, trips to the zoo, time spent in nature, etc. Regardless of your resources available for a variety of travel and exploration, every family has access to the nearly limitless number of books available through the public library network. If you struggle with a low vocabulary or with reading aloud, get some books with audio CDs from the library, then enjoy them together with your children as you follow along in the books.
     How important is having a good vocabulary and more complexity of thought? One Alzheimer's study is particularly interesting... a group of nuns volunteered to give over "regular mental examinations and brain autopsies upon death. The brain autopsies, when coupled with autobiographical essays written by the nuns when they were about twenty-two years old, showed a clear connection: those with the densest sentences (the most ideas jam-packed into a sentence without breaking them into separate clauses) were far less likely to either to develop the disease or to show its ravages. Simply put, the larger the vocabularies and the more complex the thinking processes in youth, the less chance of Alzheimer's damage."(8:21) *For more on the nuns, read Aging With Grace, by David Snowdon, PHD

*** Go back to my Reading Resources page! ***


Works Cited:
1 Charlotte Mason, Home Education
2 Susan Schaeffer Macaulay, For the Children's Sake: Foundations of Education for Home and School
3 John Taylor Gatto, The Underground History of American Education
4 Cheri Fuller, Talkers, Watchers, and Doers: Unlocking Your Child's Unique Learning Style (School Savvy Kids)
5 Christine Behrmann, Review of Swiss Family Robinson for grades 3-5. School Library Journal. 5 Jan 2010.
6 Anne Sullivan in Helen Keller's The Story of My Life
7 John Taylor Gatto, Interview of John Taylor Gatto by Mary Pride. 27 Feb 2010.
8 Jim Trelease, The Read-Aloud Handbook: Sixth Edition

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