“You may have tangible wealth untold
Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold.
Richer than I you can never be.
I had a Mother who read to me.”
Strickland Gillilan, American Poet
Giving poetic voice to what statistics and educational studies from the National Institute of Childhood Health and Human Development (NICHD) show that reading is the single most important skill for a happy and productive life. Strong readers make the transition from learning to read to reading to learn. The other statistics and studies featured throughout this online article, “The Importance of Reading with Children” discusses many important aspects of this issue.
Unfortunately, not reading well has the opposite corollary. According to NICHD reports, an estimated 10 million children struggle with reading and of those 10 million with reading difficulties, 10 to 15 percent eventually drop out of high school. Perhaps even more telling is the statistic that points to the correlation between illiteracy and juvenile delinquency. The same article cited that 86% of all juvenile offenders have reading problems and 60 % of percent of inmates are illiterate. Another telling statistic from the report also states that at least half of young people with substance abuse problems and at least half of young people involved in criminal activity have also been found to have poor reading skills.
This is not to lose hope, for parents hold extraordinary power. While specialized school programs, tutoring, community organizations, and non-profit agencies are great resources to assist, promote, remediate, and support reading and reading activities, studies find that nothing is as powerful as the parent! Repeat, repeat, nothing is as powerful as the parent!!
According to the Literacy Connections website, “U.S. Department of Education analysis found that children who were read to at least three times a week by a family member were almost twice as likely to score in the top 25 percent in reading than children who were read to less than three times a week.”
There are cumulative effects with reading to your child, like eating well, exercising, regular healthcare, etc. When we read to our children, we help them acquire language and vocabulary, and increase their understanding of the world around them. The study find that children who are frequently read to become better readers, better listeners, and better students, thus having more confidence and self-esteem.
The article “Hidden Benefits of Reading Aloud-Even for Older Kids,” by Connie Matthiessen at is a great reminder about how all aged children benefit from being read to in their homes. Jim Trelease, author of the Read Aloud Handbook, says not only is it a vocabulary booster, but a reading advertiser. When we read books out loud, we make them tantalizing! He says it also boosts attention spans and listening skills. He talks about the listening skills do not catch up with reading skills until eighth grade.
Additionally, reading out loud is a conduit for both parents and teachers alike. Books can bridge the “cultural divide” between preadolescent/adolescence and adulthood, opening up numerous subjects for conversation. Books can act like a dress rehearsal for life as they introduce young people to all sorts of new people and situation. He says that for the weary student and teacher who learn in a standardized test drenched environment, even a five-minute reading break, with a teacher reading aloud can be wonderfully beneficial, not to mention refreshing.
With the abundance of electronics in our lives, he calls this generation of students the most “distracted generation” ever. He discusses how important it is for parents to limit their children’s use of electronics and encourage reading in the home. Given the scope of the issue and the weight of its consequences, both negative and positive, better advice could not be given. As parents, we bond with children over books and the benefits are incredibly, powerfully measureable….