Reading aloud to young children is the single most effective thing parents can do to help prepare their children to succeed in school. Unfortunately, fewer than half of U.S. children ages 5 and under are read to every day, placing them at risk for reading delays and school failure. Why is reading aloud to young children so important?
• Children who live in print-rich environments and who are read aloud to during the first years of life are much more likely to learn to read on schedule.
• Reading aloud to young children is not only one of the best activities to stimulate language and cognitive skills; it also builds motivation, curiosity, and memory.
• Early language skills, the foundation for reading ability and school readiness, are based primarily on language exposure — resulting from parents and other adults talking to young children.
• Research shows that the more words parents use when speaking to an 8-month-old infant, the greater the size of their child's vocabulary at age 3. The landmark Hart-Risley study on language development documented that children from low-income families hear as many as 30 million fewer words than their more affluent peers before the age of 4.
• Books contain many words that children are unlikely to encounter frequently in spoken language. Children's books actually contain 50 percent more rare words than primetime television or even college students’ conversations.
• The nurturing and one-on-one attention from parents during reading aloud encourages children to form a positive association with books and reading later in life.
• Reading aloud is a proven technique to help children cope during times of stress or tragedy.
• Reading difficulty contributes to school failure, which increases the risk of absenteeism, leaving school, juvenile delinquency, substance abuse, and teenage pregnancy — all of which perpetuate the cycles of poverty and dependency.Reading failure can lead to failure later in life:
• The consequences of a slow start in reading become monumental as they accumulate exponentially over time.
• More than one-third of U.S. children enter kindergarten without the basic language skills they'll need to learn to read (such as knowing the words on a page move from left to right, or recognizing the letters of the alphabet).
• If a child is a poor reader in first grade, there is an 88 percent probability that the child will be a poor reader at the end of the fourth grade.
• Three-quarters of students who are poor readers in third grade will remain poor readers in high school.
• 85 percent of juvenile offenders are illiterate.
The simple act of reading aloud can and will change educational outcomes for your children. Read, speak, and sing to your children every day!
For reading tips, doctor-recommended children’s books, and more information on the importance of reading aloud, click here.