Reading to kids helps future reading success

“The more you read, the more things you will know. The more that you know, the more places you will go,” noted Dr. Seuss several decades ago. We are all probably familiar with his book, “Oh the Places You Will Go.” His books truly inspire the creativity and imagination in children across the world. More importantly, his books inspire a true love of reading. During the month of February, schools across the nation celebrate “I Love to Read Month.” Engaging students and families in varied activities around reading, highlights the importance of being a lifetime reader.

In 1985, the Commission on Reading issued its report, Becoming a Nation of Readers. Two critical findings still resonate 28 years later. The commission’s findings noted, “The single most important activity for building knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children.” It additionally states that “reading aloud to children should occur in both home and school.” We know that reading is a skill. Becoming a great reader is much like a sport. It takes practice. The more you read, the better you get at it. The last 30 years of research is strong. Despite all variables, including socioeconomic background, students who read the most achieve at higher levels and have a higher likelihood of staying in school.

As we examine our student achievement level, we know students who read at a certain level at the end of kindergarten, have a high correlation to proficiency in reading at the end of third-grade. Why does third-grade proficiency matter? There is strong national research supporting third-grade proficiency links to high school graduation rates and success in post secondary careers. Reading matters. With the increased rigor in state standards, we define kindergarten readiness much differently than we did even 10 years ago. A student on the first day of kindergarten who knows up to 40 of the upper and lower case letters of the alphabet comes with a strong foundation for learning and success. Reading aloud to toddlers and preschoolers is perhaps the most important thing we can do to prepare children with critical readiness skills.

Students today have varied media to engage them in reading. While traditional books are still the typical method in which children explore books, electronic tablets are quickly becoming a common experience for many. In a number of our schools, students may either be using an iPad or a Kindle to read and access information. Whether a student is reading a traditional book or reading through technology, what is critical is engaging in the act of reading.

As a parent, I found that one of the most enjoyable rituals with my children was reading aloud to them prior to bedtime. As their level of reading progressed, it was exciting for all of us to see the shift from picture books to chapter books and series books. As a future grandmother, among the first things I bought for my future grandson were several books. I smile when I think of being able to sit with him, reading books and instilling the love of reading. “Oh the places you can go!”

Dr. Mary Wolverton is the associate superintendent for elementary schools with the Anoka-Hennepin School District.

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