Group of school kids reading for education

The development of good reading skills in early childhood is the best predictor of future academic and financial success. The earlier kids learn to read, the better. The challenge is, not to teach kids to read, but to create an environment where kids will learn to love reading.

Here are a few statistics from the Ferst Foundation for Childhood Literacy:

  • Having books in the home is twice as important to a child’s academic success as the father’s education level.
  • The single most significant factor influencing a child’s early educational success is an introduction to books and being read to at home.
  • Books contain 50% more words which children are unlikely to encounter on primetime television.
  • There is an almost 90% probability a child will remain a poor reader at the end of the fourth grade if the child is a poor reader at the end of first grade.
  • 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.

Even though developing a love of reading is so important, it seems like some children are reluctant readers practically from birth. How can parents foster this crucial skill in their children, creating lifetime reading enthusiasts?

Let Kids Read What they Like

It’s important to create a positive connection to reading, which is accomplished by allowing kids to read what they enjoy … within reason. If kids want to read comic books, graphic novels, sports stories, or science fiction, as long as parents approve of the content, it’s okay. The more kids read, the more their reading skills will improve and the more they will want to read; consequently, the first goal is to get them reading. If comic books can get your child enthused about reading, then let them read comic books.

Let Kids See You Reading

It’s difficult to tell a child reading is important if the adults in the house never read. Parents should regularly turn off the TV, letting children see they have reserved time to read. Kids love to imitate adults, and if they see parents reading, they’ll want to do the same.

Turn the Sound Off and Closed Captioning On

Let your child watch their favorite TV show with the sound off and captioning on, making it necessary to read the dialog to know what’s going on. Get the whole family involved, with everyone taking on a different character, using that character’s voice. Be certain to help them through any words they may be stuck on to avoid frustration. Their favorite shows will take on a whole new attraction when presented by your family’s actors’ workshop.

Find Funny Books to Read With Your Kids

Kids love to laugh, so find silly books to read with your child. It’s a good idea to read through the books first so that you know where the funny parts are, since kids’ books are written for kids, and you don’t want to be the one not in on the joke.

Enlist Technology

Kids may be more comfortable with an iPad in their hands than with a book, so let them read on whatever media they prefer. Just about everything is available as an e-book, often for free. Epic is an iTunes app featuring access to over 20,000 free, high-quality children’s books. There are also many free kids’ books which can be read or downloaded to any computer, phone, or tablet.

Nothing can guarantee your child will be successful academically or in the career they choose, but if they develop a love of reading at an early age, they’ll have a much better chance at accomplishing great things throughout their lives.

Encourage Kids to Read Poetry

Nursery rhymes, songs … kids love poetry, probably without even realizing it. Reading and writing poetry has many developmental benefits:

  • Poetry not only develops language skills, but also has rhythm and sounds that work together for more effective communication. Many of the world’s greatest speakers — Martin Luther King, Jr., Winston Churchill, Franklin Roosevelt, Barak Obama — have a rhythm and musicality to their speech which increases the power of their message.
  • Poetry breaks the rules. Kids don’t often have permission to disobey the rules of English, but poems can break away from sentence structure and can include made-up words, allowing kids a liberating means of expression. The loosening of rules is beneficial to English Language Learners, allowing them to express themselves outside of grammatical confinements.
  • Poetry helps develop memorization skills in children. Older kids often have problems memorizing, whether it’s multiplication tables or the Gettysburg Address. Little kids, though, are able to memorize nursery rhymes almost as soon as they can talk. If you can keep kids memorizing poems as they get older, that skill will serve them well throughout their lives.
  • Poetry teaches economy of language. By creating poems with a specific structure, like a sonnet, limerick, cinquain, or haiku, children have to think about each word, finding the most effective way to communicate their ideas, while staying within the poem’s strict form.

The worst thing to do is to make reading or memorizing poetry feel like a chore or like a punishment. There are apps available which will read poems to your kids on your phone or tablet. Or, you can find entertaining poems online for kids to read themselves.

Nothing can guarantee your child will be successful academically or in the career they choose, but if they develop a love of reading at an early age, they’ll have a much better chance at accomplishing great things throughout their lives.

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