Now that kids have returned to school after a long holiday vacation, learning has moved, once again, to center stage. Reading is one of the main cornerstones of learning. However, many kids nowadays do not value reading like they should. In other words, they do not read for the pure pleasure of reading, but because they have to at school.
In order to address that and to encourage people to read more, including kids, the National Book Foundation has declared that January 24th will be National Readathon Day. Bookstores, libraries and bibliophiles across the country are being encouraged to host "reading parties" from noon to 4 on that Saturday afternoon when people of all ages can come together to read silently. (And tweet silently, too, using the hashtag #timetoread.)
Reading brings many benefits for kids: it helps them expand, organize and get to know their environment and the world around them. Both the images and text helps them expand their knowledge in general about the world and allows their imagination to soar. It also helps them get to know themselves better and to control their world with knowledge.
The family's influence is critical to promote reading amongst kids. Children are like sponges; if parents read to their kids while they are little, it is more likely they will continue reading independently when they learn how to do so themselves because by then it will have become a healthy habit. Likewise, if they see their parents reading often, they will tend to imitate this behavior and will probably end up becoming habitual readers themselves.
Reading also strengthens the relationship between parents and children. Parents are charged with reading to their children as a means of making them discover the wonderful, intriguing world around them. These reading moments are very special, because they are filled with affection and help strengthen the bonds and time spent together between parents and kids.
It also helps to develop a child's abilities. It allows the child to establish a relationship between objects and their symbols and thus learn how to understand and manage the concept of abstraction. Reading helps kids to expand their memory, increase their vocabulary and improve their comprehension while reading and their verbal fluency. This in turn will help improve their school performance.
"It is proven that students who read become better readers, have higher grades in all subjects and have more knowledge than those who don't. (Source: Krashen 1993; Cunningham and Stanovich 1991; Stanovich and Cunningham 1993)."
Here are some tips on how parents can motivate kids to read:
- Read to them every day at bedtime while they are little.
- Once they can read by themselves, keep on reading to them as long as possible. Then read to each other so that it is something you share together.
- Choose books with themes that interest them. The key is in your choice. By doing this, it will ensure that they read.
- Take them to the local public library so that they become part of the process and will want to read.
- Negotiate with them by exchanging chores for reading. For example, instead of having them cut the grass, or take the dog out, have them read the equivalent amount of time required to do the chore. Or tell them that they will be able to watch one hour of television after they read for an hour. Many schools promote reading when the kids are little but then discontinue this practice as the kids get older.
- Kids often imitate their parents. So be a role model for your kids. If they see you reading, they most likely will read as well.
If you think you should wait to read to your kids until they know how to read, think again. Even if it seems incredible, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the recommended age to start reading to your kids is when they are actually six months old! If this seems difficult to you, you can start a little later, or when they are one year old. We are talking about starting with big picture books with little text and then moving to more complicated books with less photos and more text, as they get older. It is really worth your time to invest time reading to your kids because the long term benefits are very positive and can last an entire life time.