A weekend for child literacy

March 1 – Read Across America Day

March 2 – Read to A Child Day & Dr. Seuss’s Birthday

“You’re never too old, too wacky, too wild, to pick up a book and read to a child.”

Dr. Seuss said it and as his March 2 birthday approaches us, it’s a useful tip to remember.  For many of us, Dr. Seuss books encapsulate the childhood reading experience. We all remember learning the basics of numbers and colors with One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish. Later, we learned about the power of ordinary citizens in Yertle the Turtle. And In Oh, The Places You’ll Go, we got excited about our own potential.

These are messages that stuck. And we learned them on the lap of a cherished adult as they read through the rhymes, showed us how to love words, and let the lessons of how to learn, dream and treat others sink in. As parents, we’ve likely added these gems to our kids’ libraries in the hopes that we could teach them the same lessons.

How can something as simple as reading to a child be one of the most important things an adult can do?

The evidence is overwhelming. Consistent daily reading started from an early age can dramatically improve a child’s readiness for and success in a school setting. According to Reading is Fundamental, the act of reading aloud to your child gives them concrete skills that are vital to their ability for advanced learning and socialization, such as:

  •  Knowledge of printed letters and words, and the relationship between sound and print
  •  The meaning of words
  • The mechanics of books: that words are read from left to right, how to turn a page, that printed symbols represent words that they can say
  • The difference between written language and everyday conversation
  • An increased attention span
  • The pleasure of reading

Even babies love looking at pictures and hearing the sounds of their parents’ voices. Reading to a baby is a comforting routine, a source of positive parent-child interaction, and a stimulating way help her explore her world. A study in Child Development stated that toddlers who were read to regularly at an early age displayed better language comprehension, larger and more expressive vocabularies, and higher cognitive scores by age 2. What’s more, the families in the study were all classified as low-income, suggesting that reading was an equalizer for school readiness across socio-economic categories.

The long-term effects are just as stunning. 15-year-olds who were read to often as young children score significantly higher on the PISA 2009 test than children whose parents did not read to them often or at all (Programme for International Student Assessment).

Nebraska: We still have a way to go.

According to the Forum on Child and Family Statistics, only half of Nebraska families are reading to their children every day. This lack of regular reading aloud can have dramatic impacts on the future learning of these children.

NebraskaReading

The consequences

The results are clear in the 2012 Kids Count in Nebraska Report. 64% of Nebraska’s third-graders had not reached grade-level reading proficiency. When a child can’t read by the end of third grade, there are several risks that arise:

  • Inability to read more than 50% of the printed fourth grade curriculum (National Assessment of Education Progress)
  • 75% of these children will continue to be poor readers on high school reading assessments (National Assessment of Education Progress)
  • Higher expectation of social and behavioral problems
  • 4 times more likely to leave high school without a diploma (This number goes up when the child comes from a family in poverty, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation)
  • More than 1/3 of juvenile offenders read below the fourth-grade level (Adolescent Literacy: A National Reading Crisis)

So what do we do about it?

Friday, March 1 is Reading Across America Day. Saturday, March 2 is Dr. Seuss’s birthday and National Read to a Child Day. Use this weekend to galvanize your commitment to read 30 minutes a day to the children in your life. It’s a fantastic way to share special time every day, and the results all but guarantee a better school experience and more successful outcomes in life.

Take a cue from Dr. Seuss – pick up a book, pick up a kid, and get reading.

Nebraska Children and Families Foundation supports children, young adults and families at risk with the overall goal of giving our state's most vulnerable kids what they need to reach their full potential. We do this by building strong communities that support families so their children can grow up to be thriving, productive adults.

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Posted in Early Childhood, Middle Childhood

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