The question parents always ask is how can I help my child be successful in school. This is a very easy question to answer because the research is so clear on what parents need to do. The number one, most important thing you can do as parents to help your child achieve in school and in life is to be sure your child is exposed to language at a very young age. This means you need to read to your child daily and be sure your child reads on a daily basis. It is not necessarily what they read that matters, but the process of reading, seeing, and hearing language that promotes achievement. You should be sure your child is read to or reads at least 15 minutes a day. I cannot begin to tell you what a difference this would make in schools if every child had this exposure before entering school.
In the 2003 Report on Young Children’s Achievement in Reading sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education, it states, “Children from a literacy-rich home environment (i.e., those who are read to, sung to, and told stories to more frequently and those who have more children’s books, records/audiotapes/CDs in the home) demonstrated higher reading knowledge and skills than other children. This relationship existed whether their families’ income was above or below the federal poverty threshold.” The report further states, “Children who frequently demonstrated positive approaches to learning when they entered kindergarten (e.g., persisted at tasks, paid attention, and were eager to learn) had higher reading skills than children who less frequently displayed such behavior.” There is a direct, and very positive, correlation between children exposed to language and children’s academic achievement.
The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reports the following common home factors among those students who scored high on these national exams:
1. Had a greater array of literacy materials in their home
2. More frequently read for fun
3. More frequent home discussions about their studies
4. Watched less than four hours of television a day
Reading to your children and having lots of books in your home can lead to greater academic achievement. Some recommendations for reading to your student can be found at memfox.org. Mem Fox has written Reading Magic and has listed the following ten commandments for reading aloud to children:
1. Spend at least ten wildly happy minutes every single day reading aloud.
2. Read at least three stories a day; it may be the same story three times. Children need to hear a thousand stories before they learn to read.
3. Read aloud with animation. Listen to your own voice and don’t be dull, flat, or boring. Hang loose and be loud; have fun and laugh a lot.
4. Read with joy and enjoyment: real enjoyment for yourself and great joy for the listeners.
5. Read the stories that the kids love over and over and over again, and always read in the same “tune” for each book, i.e., with the same intonation on each page, each time.
6. Let children hear lots of language by talking to them constantly; or sing any old song that you can remember; or say nursery rhymes in a bouncy way; or be noisy together doing clapping games.
7. Look for rhyme, rhythm or repetition in books for young children, and make sure the books are short.
8. Play games with the things that you and the children can see on the page, such as finding letters that start the child’s name and your name, remembering that it’s never work, it’s always a fabulous game.
9. Never ever teach reading or get tense around books.
10. Read aloud every day because you just love being with your child, not because it’s the right thing to do.
In these days of computers, video games, and more and more television directed at young children, it is important for parents to guide their children to reading. It is the number one, most important thing you will do to help your child succeed. Have your home full of books and visit the library often. Be sure your child reads every day and be sure your child sees you reading every day; the example you set can go along way to establishing your child’s personal reading habits.