Do you know that the best thing you can do for your child each day is also the easiest? Get them to read.1 It’s free, it’s fast, and it’s been found to better prepare students for academic success than any other known practice.
Two research studies prove that academic success is directly tied to the amount of time students spend reading outside of school each day.2 These studies investigated how 155 fifth-grade students spent their after-school time. Sadly, these results probably won’t surprise anyone: 90 percent of the students devoted only one percent of their free time to reading and 30 percent to watching television. Fifty percent read for an average of four minutes or less a day, 30 percent read for two minutes a day, and 10 percent read nothing at all.
Now let’s examine how these students scored on reading achievement tests. Those who scored in the 90th percentile read an average of 37 minutes daily outside of school. Students in the 50th percentile read 11 minutes at home, and students scoring in the 10th percentile read an average of one minute daily. What made the difference? The 90th percentile students read 219 hours a year, or 2.25 million more words than their non-reading peers! This creates a huge learning gap between readers and non-readers.
The good news is that reading can easily bridge this gap. So that brings us to the next logical question: Should we force our children to read at home? What if they HATE it? The answer to that hesitation is fairly simple. While it is better to coax and entice children to read before requiring it, required reading is simply more beneficial than no reading at all. When we require children to read, we are sending them the message that reading is an important and meaningful task.
Reading doesn’t have to be a huge chore, though. Here are some tips for making daily reading enjoyable:
1) Read aloud to your child on a regular basis to encourage positive associations with reading.
2) Make sure that you—the adult role model—are seen reading on a daily basis. Even better, read at the same time as your child!
3) Allow your child to select his own material for required reading, even if it doesn’t meet your high standards. The vocabulary in newspapers, magazines and comic books is often as sophisticated as books.
4) Set time parameters, starting short and growing longer with time and age.
5) If your child enjoys television in moderation, let him watch it…but set the television to closed captioning. Of course, T.V. will never be an equal substitute for reading, but research indicates that watching T.V. with closed captions can improve reading skills!3
Do your child a huge favor today. Start a new routine that includes daily time for reading.
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Post author: Elizabeth Cossick, M.Ed.
Foot Notes: 1 Trelease, J. (2002). Reading more and loving it: Resource handbook. Bellevue, WA: Bureau of Education and Research. 2 Anderson, R., Fielding, L., & Wilson, P. (1988, Summer). Growth in reading and how children spend their time outside of school. Reading Research Quarterly, 12, 285-303, as cited by Jim Trelease in “Reading More and Loving It.” 3 Rickelman, R. J., Henk, W. A., & Layton, K. (1991, April). Closed-captioned television: A viable technology for the reading teacher. The Reading Teacher 44(8), 598-599. Retrieved December 15, 2004, from Academic Search Premier database.