My daughter Eloise didn’t even have the chance to not love books. As a lover of picture books way before she was born, I knew if and when I had a child, we would read with her daily and surround ourselves with books so we could pass on a love of reading and prepare her for a world filled with words in print. There’s something so comforting and magical about getting lost in a story while safe in the arms of a loved one. I wanted books to be a prominent and regular part of our lives. My mom read to my sister and me as children and those memories are part of why I loved my childhood.
One of my favorite quotes comes from American poet Strickland Gillilan:
You may have tangible wealth untold;
Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold.
Richer than I you can never be—
I had a mother who read to me.
I knew I would recreate those cozy lap-and-story memories for my daughter and I want her to have a successful life built on strong literacy skills. Emilie Buchwald wrote, “Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.” I love that part of a parent’s job description!
Read To Your Child Every Day
Here are 9 reasons why you should make an effort to read with your child every day.
90% of brain development occurs between birth and age five.
Research shows how reading to your baby every day from birth provides the important foundation of literacy, which is helpful all throughout life. Reach Out and Read, a nonprofit organization that works at “prescribing books” through pediatricians, shares those first five years are important years to spend a lot of time reading your children.
Over half of American children are not proficient in reading by the end of third grade.
According to Reach out and Read, in 2011, 66% of children in America were not proficient in reading by the end of third grade. “What happens in infancy and toddlerhood truly sets the stage for achievement later in life.” Learning starts at home. President Barack Obama stated in his State of the Union Address in 2011, “It’s family that first instills the love of learning in a child.” So, get out the books and read with your kids every day!
Kids are eager and ready to learn!
Early literacy expert Susan Neuman advises, “Don’t underestimate what kids can absorb. Children are language sponges—they soak up the words around them.”
Learning to read is easier for children if they’ve been read to.
Retired literacy professor and children’s book writer Mem Fox wrote in an article of The Reading Teacher, “Research around the world has proven that children who are read to regularly are better able to learn to read easily, happily, and quickly.” As a former teacher, I could tell which of my first-grade students had been read to at home and which ones had not.
Books can do some of the talking for parents and caregivers.
According to Dorothy Butler, author of Babies Need Books, “None of us can endlessly initiate speech: we run out of ideas, or just plain get sick of it.” Books are a way for us to talk without having to come up with new ideas continuously.
When my daughter Eloise was a baby, in between the routine parenthood duties like feeding, changing, and putting her down for sleep, when we were at a lull, we would grab a book. We kept a selection of board books on a table nearby so we could easily grab and read. I was determined that she would know how books work and enjoy reading way before Kindergarten, but I wasn’t going to do it formally. It would just be a natural part of each day.
Books help kids make connections to things in the world.
Before my daughter was two years old, she was hardly speaking. I was getting us ready to leave and I said something about needing to get her shoes on. A few minutes later, I noticed that she had placed her shoes next to a board book called Put on Your Shoes! I was so impressed at the connection she made and that she found a way to communicate it to me!
Reading books together teach early literacy skills.
Reading books with a baby shows a baby how a book works: the direction it opens, which way to turn pages, reading left to right and top to bottom, and parts of a book like the spine and the title. Babies will retain these skills as they grow.
Rachel Williams, a reporter for The Guardian, wrote in April 2010, “Being told stories boost language and, by feeding the child’s imagination, develops abstract thought.”
Reading aloud prepares children for Kindergarten.
Pie Corbett, an educational adviser to the government says that children read to regularly before starting school is a key predictor in terms of educational success.
It’s fun to read books together!
We love spending time with our children!
12 Tips on How to Read With Your Child Every Day
- Have different types of books available for babies so they can feel them, squish them, and even gnaw on them: bath books, board books, and cloth books to name a few.
- Read books with photographs of babies, kids, adults, and animals. Babies love those!
- Babies up to 6 months enjoy looking at books with black and white pictures: simple, bold illustrations.
- Provide a range of books: picture books, nursery rhymes, nonfiction, poetry, ABC and counting books, bedtime stories, and ones with highly predictable text.
- Involve your baby in print-based activities like list making, paying bills, and writing cards.
- Bring books with you in the car. This particular day, we were in the car to leave and before we backed out of the driveway, Eloise frantically signed “book” in American Sign Language! How silly of me to forget!
- Go to the library for story time and to pick out books together! Get your child her own library card.
- Sing the ABCs.
- Make reading fun, not formal. The more fun and relaxed it is, the more likely a child is to read on her own (and to her dolls). Soon enough, your child will be in a structured school setting. Also, Mem Fox says don’t introduce a book; just read it. Kids will listen more once the actual story begins. And it’s not about hearing every word; Renea Arnold and Nell Colburn said in School Library Journal that it’s about “the conversation between parent and child that the book can stimulate.”
- Consider a baby magazine subscription for your child. We had Babybug. It is small for little hands, has sturdy pages, and includes great stories and illustrations. We graduated to Ladybug when my daughter turned three.
- Enjoy hands-on learning activities: magnetic letters, puzzles, and sand, Play-Doh, and pipe cleaners for making letters.
- Surround yourself with books and make an accessible literate environment for the whole family. Outward facing bookshelves are a great idea.
I’m happy that I’ve used and continue to use these tips with my daughter. She impresses me every day. At almost four years old, she knows how books work, recognizes titles and some sight words, and uses a pretty high vocabulary. I attribute it all to reading books to her every day since her birth. It’s authentic learning, which is learning in real life situations. I attest to Mem Fox’s words: “Reading aloud is a way of life, of loving, and of course, the best at teaching literacy.”
I dreamed of getting to form a reader and now I absolutely picture my daughter as a lifelong reader.