March just happens to be National Reading Month. As far as I am concerned, every month should be National Reading Month. Research tells us that children who are read to on a regular basis simply know more. Those children come to school with something called, “Social Capital.” Social Capital is all of the background information that a child has when he or she enters school. When Horace Mann helped create the first common schools in the United States, he thought school would be the great equalizer. If we gave all children the same education, they would end up in the same place as adults and have the same opportunity to achieve. The one thing Horace Mann forgot was social capital. Children do not come to school with the same background information and experiences. Because of this factor and the differences of support a child may have through school, it is impossible for all children to receive the same education and end up in the same place academically, socially, and emotionally.
One large discrepancy in learning is in language development. Sometimes two five year-old children can have language backgrounds that are different by thousands of hours. That is where reading to the child becomes so critical. A child who is read to regularly has greater language skills, a larger vocabulary, and more background knowledge about the world. He is also more likely to become a good reader himself because of the good modeling that has occurred and the fact that after listening to many books, reading makes sense to him.
Challenge yourself to read to a child this month (and continue on each month after that). Nothing compares to the joy of reading a story to a young child. Here is a fun suggestion. Pick up a copy of a new book by Mo Willems called, “Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs.” Enjoy the experience with the child as you have a laugh together and build background knowledge that may benefit her for a lifetime.
We were discussing in our reading class this week how research indicates that children who are read to on a regular basis simply know more when they get to school. Besides preparing the child to be a reader, being read to increases vocabulary and allows for more discussion and conversation. Combine that with the regular model of reading fluency from the adult and you have a prescription for a successful reader. We also know that children must be explicitly taught reading kills. Having the language background of hearing and participating in stories provides a wonderful foundation for those reading skills to make sense. It also provides a connection between print, reading and talking. That connection is not automatic with many children.
We don’t know for sure what type of a world our child will have in 15 years. One way we can help him is to arm him with skills he will need no matter what the world looks like. Reading is one of those skills.