When my two children were growing up, we had a ritual. Every night, even though I was exhausted from a long day at work, I would read to them before they went to bed. Their favorite book was where the wild things are by Maurice Sendak. Sometimes they were very quiet listening; other times they jumped up and down like wild beasts themselves. Anyway, we were building the habit of reading – together.
We talked about what the characters were doing in the book, having conversations that built vocabulary, helped my kids think about what they were reading, and instilled in them the confidence to ask and answer questions.
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In the first year of the pandemic, 69% of parents read aloud to their children, according to the US Census. But even though schools were closed and learning disruptions from COVID-19 could set children back four months in literacy, that number was only a 5 percentage point increase from the previous year. , before schools closed. With data like this, and with less than 20% of teens participating in recreational reading, it’s extremely important for every parent to make sure their children understand the importance of reading on a daily basis.
Fortunately, cultivating a culture of reading aloud for children is easier than ever, thanks to increased accessibility of digital and print resources. Even though the demands on parents have never been greater, especially in traditionally disadvantaged families where they may have to work multiple jobs, reading at home can be done using devices we almost have. all already in hand – our phones – without any significant additional financial effort. investment.
Children between the ages of 8 and 10 spend an average of six hours a day in front of computer or smartphone screens, so screen time on a device that already contains an e-reader can easily be turned into an opportunity to learn and to read. My organization, Worldreader, has helped more than 19 million children and young people around the world improve their education and their lives through access to digital books on free, easy-to-use apps. From the Bronx in New York to the Texas-Mexico border, we partner with community organizations to distribute our BookSmart app, a digital library of hundreds of bilingual books paired with short, easy-to-follow family chat prompts.
Other apps, like Homer and Reading Eggs, offer similar services to make reading aloud a normal part of a child’s day. Imagine waiting at the laundromat or getting on a bus. Instead of filling that time by letting your kids play on a phone or tablet, you can open a book, take five minutes to read a story aloud, and then spend a few more minutes talking about the story. This not only increases engagement with your children, but normalizes reading as a daily activity. In fact, a to study published in the Review of Educational Research found that e-books accompanied by questions or activities significantly improve children’s reading comprehension.
Beyond increased literacy and confidence, reading aloud to children plays an important role in improving the development of social skills. Research shows that social-emotional learning has a wide range of benefits, including self-awareness and relationship skills; reading aloud helps children think about the characters, process their feelings about them, and reflect on the situations the character faces. Parents can guide sometimes difficult conversations by being strategic about which books they choose to read and by incorporating activities to engage their children more.
Children whose caregivers read at least five books a day with them enter kindergarten having heard about 1.4 million more words than children who were never read to.
Parents and guardians have the power to share the gift of literacy and ensure that all children have the confidence and ability to read.
Kristen Walter is Director of US Programs at world reader.
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