Written by: Julie Provencher
Do you take the time to read to your children? As a mother myself of two boys (6 and 7 years old), I instinctively know that reading to my children is important. Here and there, we often hear that this daily reading -- a moment shared between parent and child -- is beneficial and that it will make school easier one day...but what does science have to say about this? Why is reading so important?
Studies confirm that reading is a great way to prepare your child for school and future learning. According to the results of the Quebec Longitudinal Study of Child Development (QLSDC), children with parents who start reading to them when they are approximately 18 months old are more likely to read for pleasure and perform better on the sixth-grade reading test. Unconsciously, these children acquire all kinds of knowledge through reading. They learn to recognize characters, perceive storyline structure (beginning, middle, and ending), develop strategies to understand the text (anticipate, ask questions, form an opinion on the events, etc.), expand their vocabulary and, of course, gain general knowledge on various topics.
Taking the time to expose your child to books and reading is an important factor that promotes early reading. Indeed, some children come to school with twenty hours of exposure, while others have about 1,500 hours! A significant difference...
If you're a working mom like me, you probably have a very busy routine that includes after-school activities for the kids and a number of additional responsibilities. But as they say, the small actions of today can shape the world of tomorrow. So over the years, I've come up with several tricks to promote reading time with my little ones. I'd like to share these with you.
When my children were younger, I often mentioned how lucky they were to have a story before lights out. Reading was therefore seen as a great privilege before bedtime. Now that they're a little older, I still read to them and I also offer them a special deal: those who read alone can go to bed 10 minutes later. It's amazing how often solo reading is chosen!
Sometimes, my schedule keeps me from being able to have reading time with my kids. When this happens, daddy takes over! Their father has his own way of reading, which makes it a unique treat the children love.
The babysitter often contributes some reading time as well. I simply let her know in a note or on her babysitting calendar that I've hidden a book under one of the kids' pillows, and voila! More reading time has been added to the week.
I also take advantage of family visits! Grandma is coming over for dinner? Why not have her read to the kids while you're doing the dishes, or have your child read her a passage to show her how much he's improved!
Moreover, I sometimes send my children's favorite books to their daycare or school. They're very proud to show off their books and share these with their friends.
I always try to recognize the reading my children do every day, whether it's reading a menu, the weather forecast, a calendar, a section of the newspaper, etc. I tell them how proud I am of them being able to read the information around them, of learning and asking questions. I take the time to highlight these moments by saying: "I love it when you read!" or "You'll be a great reader!" These small encouragements give value to moments that could so easily go unnoticed.
Not all children like fairytales or stories. Some may prefer information and knowledge books, joke books, comic books or even nursery rhymes books. When it comes to reading, no subject is boring...there are only uninterested people! I make it a point to know what my children like or are interested in. I ask them what they would like to learn about, where they would like to travel and if they prefer books that are funny or sad. Basically, I talk to my children and take the time to get to know them.
For additional help, I often ask the librarian to point out the bestsellers, new releases, recommended books or classic collections based on the age of my children. The library and librarian are gold mines, so why not take advantage of it?
However, I don't always choose the books my children like. Sometimes I tell them that this week, everybody gets to pick a book; mommy and daddy too. That way, we discover a variety of books throughout the week. I often try to choose a book that's different from what we're used to (an alphabet book, a book of riddles, a book/series with a new hero, etc.).
Finally, I take the time to talk to my children about their reading. This provides a great topic of discussion in addition to those related to their daily activities! When I read them a story, I try not to turn the pages too quickly so they have time to react and ask questions. I like to see them reflect on what they've read...and sometimes, I talk about the books we read during dinner.
I also try to take an interest in the reading my son does on his own. I ask him what he's learned or about the adventures the book's main character had that day.
To conclude, investing time and effort in reading is a smart move that is not about money; never be afraid to have your children read favourite stories over and over again or borrow books from the library or friends. Most importantly, bear in mind that having a reading-friendly home is a lifestyle that favours our children's future success!
Julie Provencher is passionate about stimulating and teaching children to read. As a mother, lecturer and educational consultant, she has just completed a research project with the University of Montreal entitled "L'impact de l'accompagnement parental sur le développement de la lecture d'un enfant de 5 ans," (The impact of parental support on the development of a five-year-old child's reading skills).