As far as I can remember the only reading materials we had at home when I was five years old were the Holy Bible, the Prayer Book, and Waraynon (a weekly magazine in the local dialect).
My father was always busy with his work, and my mother, with the household chores. Both didn’t find time to read to us.
Having been taught reading using the alphabet method in grade one, I started reading those available materials at home using guessing games. One time I read our sewing machines as “Yo-uth se-wing Mak-hi-ne” (Youth Sewing Machine).
I didn’t want my own children to experience the way I learned. So, after graduation from a bachelor’s degree course, I started collecting books. I also subscribed to some weekly, monthly and bi-monthly magazines.
Four and a half years later, I got married. On my first pregnancy I started reading aloud to my fetus and listening to good music for him.
When my first-born son was almost a year old I recited rhymes and read stories to him every time I was not doing other important things. I continued doing this during his preschool years especially at bedtime.
As former U.S. First Lady Barbara Bush puts it, “Reading aloud is one of the best-kept secrets of good parenting. It has tremendous impact on a young mind and gives youngsters a head start on their education.” Children, reading experts say, can be two and a half years ahead in reading readiness when they enter kindergarten.
In addition, Jim Trelease reminds parents by saying that the foremost nurturing they can give their children is reading aloud to them.
To help you start a reading aloud program, here are some tips from my personal experiences, Mrs. Bush, and other literacy advocates.
1. Get started now. You shouldn’t delay it. My friend, Roselyn, read to her daughter shortly after she brought her home from the hospital. In the next few years, she read to her book after book. By the time Johanna was three years old, she was reading on her own. Her love for reading must have contributed to her academic success. She did excellently in her academic performance in the elementary and secondary levels. Now a college student, she ranks number two in the freshman class of 506 students taking up Bachelor of Science in Nursing.
What is important is to start reading aloud.
2. Make reading aloud a habit. Mrs. Bush used to read to her children at bedtime. Most evenings, they would snuggle together with some favorite books. The kids came to love that special time. They learned passages from their favorite books by heart, which they would recite together.
Mrs. Bush gives this advice, “It doesn’t matter when you read – but is helpful to do it at the same time each day, for at least 15 minutes.” She adds that housekeeping and other household chores can wait, but reading is more important. It can lead to do a better and more productive life.
3. Involve the whole family. Children enjoy being read at by others. Fathers should read aloud to their children. Kids would love to listen to other members of the family – uncles, aunts, and grandparents – read aloud to them.
Today, most parents work outside the home. So parents should choose baby-sitters and /or child-care providers who can read aloud to them and who have a background in psychology.
4. Keep books handy. Studies revealed that growing up in a home filled with books often helps a child become an early reader.
For my children, I keep stacks of books in our house in the province and in our city residence.
A home library need not be expensive. You can watch for sales, exchange books with friends, and ask relatives and godparents to give books as gifts. Books not available at home can be had in public or school libraries or even in the internet.
5. Choose good books. Children’s interest in books differ according to their stages of development. Reading experts give the following guidelines for choosing books.
- For infants and toddlers (to age 3) – simple picture and storybooks about familiar objects. The shapes and colors are attractive to children.
- Preschoolers (ages 3 to 6) – Action books, fantasy stories; poems and stories about animals and everyday experiences; books with catchy refrains or lines.
- Primary grades children (ages 6 to 9) – Books about children’s hobbies and interests.
- Intermediate grades children (ages 9 to 12) – Books with humor, folk tales, longer poems, classics like “Tom Sawyer” and more complex stories and mystery stories.
6. Make the written word come alive. In reading to your children always try to “involve” them. In the middle of a sentence leave out a word and wait for a child to supply it. Let the children predict upcoming events in the story by asking questions like “What do you think will happen next?” Read all the words. Then let the children confirm or correct their predictions.
Of course, to make your reading lively, first arouse the children’s interest by letting them study the cover and guess what the story is about.
This kind of reading where children are involved will help develop their language and critical thinking skills.
7. Keep reading to them until they can read for themselves. Reading experts suggest reading to the children until they reach age 12. At this age, most of their listening comprehension is much higher than their reading comprehension.
Barbara Bush stresses, “Get a child hooked on reading and its joys will last a lifetime.” Jan Camille, my friend’s daughter, was only one year old when her parents started reading to her. By the time she was four, Jan Camille was reading in bed before getting up in the morning and before going to sleep at night. Today, at age 12, Jan Camille’s day is not complete without reading a book.
In closing, I don’t want to skip Jim Trelease’ bold claim when he says that reading is the most important factor in life today. He stresses, “The more you read, the smarter you grow. The smarter you grow, the longer you stay in school, the more money you earn. The more money you earn, the better your children will do in school. So, if you hook a child with reading, you influence not only his future but also that of the next generation.”
I hope that from today more number of parents will read aloud to their children.
Is 15 minutes enough to make a difference?