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Successful Childhood Learning Starts with Reading Aloud

Research has consistently shown that children who love to read excel in school and continue to excel in higher education and life in later years. Reading aloud with your child is key to sparking the passion for reading.

Popular theory in the world of education has long been that a young child is an empty slate, just waiting to have information poured into them. That theory has promoted the idea that learning by rote will make a child smarter, and thus more likely to succeed. But studies of the last fifteen years or so have turned such thinking on its ear 'the new thought behind early childhood development is not to shove a book under their noses and say 'learn,' rather, it's to show your child how to learn, by reading with them, and forging not just an interest, but a real pleasure out of what the printed word can bring.

Let's looks at an example: 'The filibuster is a strategy employed in the United States Senate, whereby a minority can delay a vote on proposed legislation by making long speeches or introducing irrelevant issues. A successful filibuster can force withdrawal of a bill, and filibusters can be ended only by cloture.'

Pretty interesting, huh? No? Well, to be honest, we didn't think it would be. The fact of the matter is, if you don't have a passion for politics, a piece of information about a political process will likely go in one ear and out the other, even if you're forced to read the passage more than once. You could read it two or three times, memorize the words, and even be tested on them, but will you still remember that information next week? How about in a month?

When your child goes to school and is told to read several pages in a book that doesn't interest them, they're going through the exact same thing you just experienced. If there's no inherent passion for reading, and no passion for the subject matter, then there will be minimal retention at the end of it all.

A study of 74 schools by the UK National Foundation for Educational Research found that 'fewer youngsters believe reading is difficult, compared with 10 years ago. However, there is a substantial decrease in pupils reading for pleasure. 65% of 9-year-olds and 73% of 11-year-olds said they did not think reading was difficult, compared with 56% and 62% respectively in 1998. Just over 7 out of 10 of the younger age group enjoy reading as a pastime, compared with 78% five years ago, while for 11-year-olds, the proportion has declined from 77% to 65%. Children said they preferred watching television to going to the library or reading. But the biggest changes in attitudes were among boys. In Year 6, only 55% of boys said they enjoyed stories compared with 70% in 1998.'

Why? Perhaps other statistics in the same report might have some insight:

  • 24% of children under the age of 4 had television sets in their bedrooms

  • More than 50% of children over the age of 4 have their own TVs

  • 28% have computer games in their rooms

  • 8.5% of under-fours have a VCR in their rooms

The Florida Center for Reading Research (FCRR) recommends that parents read with their child for at least fifteen minutes every day, all the way through third grade, stating, 'Before you read each book, read the title and look at the cover and pictures inside. Ask your child what [he or] she thinks the book may be about. After reading the book, review [his or] her predictions. Was the prediction right? If not, what happened instead?'

The object in such an exercise is threefold: You make reading an interactive experience that a child can enjoy much as they do playing in the yard, you give the child an opportunity to ask questions about things they don't understand, and you promote creative thought within your child, where they learn to assess what they see, critically appraise it, and think beyond what they're seeing on the page.

The FCRR advice goes further, recommending a weekly trip with your child to the library, and rhyming games that make your child think about how words are put together, all of which are intended to show your child that reading is just as much fun off-the-page as it is on.

The ultimate object is to convince your child to open a book for fun, in their spare time, and thus begin a lifelong enjoyment of the written word and the information that books can bring. This doesn't just help them at school 'according to the NCREL, readers 'have self-confidence that they are effective learners [and] see themselves as agents able to actualize their potential.'

It's important for every parent to realize the value of literacy in their child, at the earliest age possible, but it's even more important to understand the value of comprehension, and how you can help that seed take root.

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