Published December 31, 2013
It’s that time again to make your New Year’s resolutions list. We make all kinds of promises like to eat healthier, lose weight and exercise.
But one resolution may be missing and is worth adding to our list: reading to our young children every night and encouraging older children to read.
By reading to our children or even mentoring children in your community, we are investing in families and in the success of the next generation.
Reading to young children is critical to their academic success. If a child is a poor reader in third grade, they are four times as likely to drop out of high school.
For a child who is struggling to learn to read there is nothing more important than practice. Taking time to read to your child will likely help him or her become an enthusiastic lifetime reader, and learner.
We can encourage our young children to read by making it a part of their bedtime routine. Even reading a few pages at night helps young children build their language and critical thinking skills. They learn new words, phrases and strengthen their grammar. And, of course, reading triggers imaginative questions, which prompts the teaching of lifelong lessons.
However, not enough parents are reading to their children regularly. In fact, a recent poll showed that only one in three parents of children ages eight and under read stories to their children every night. Children are spending more time in front of the television than reading books.
Reading together leads to more time interacting as a family. It also gives parents a chance to figure out if their children are reading at an appropriate level or whether they may be falling behind.
My mom, Barbara Bush, would read to all of my brothers and me every night when we were young.
Because she read to us and had us read to her, she figured out that my brother Neil was dyslexic. Being able to detect learning differences early is so important for a child to receive the help they need so that they do not fall behind.
We are learning more and more about the benefits of reading. New research from Emory University showed that reading a good book “boosts” one’s brain function and “heightens brain connectivity” for days after completing the novel.
Reading is exercise for the brain. Imagine how it can help a child’s brain in those critical years of development.
The more we read to our young children or those in our local communities, the greater chance they have of becoming better readers and better students. However, our students are falling behind. Statistics show that two-thirds of all fourth graders in the United States do not read proficiently. For those in lower income families, the number rises to four-fifths.
At the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy, we have seen first-hand the tremendous success of reading to young children.
Our Teen Trendsetter program connects volunteer teenagers with the lowest performing students in first, second and third grade. They usually meet twice a week and spend time reading together.
By the end of the school year and with the help of their mentors, these young students advance their reading skills by one full academic year.
They also receive books to encourage reading at home.
For 2014, a healthier resolution for our children is less television and more books.
Reading together helps to keep families together. It encourages creativity and allows for parents and children to interact and share their thoughts and ideas.
Let’s boost their brains, especially while they are young and build their confidence and love of reading by helping them become master readers -- one book at a time.