Reading Success Begins at Home

mother reading to child
Children who have a rich exposure to books and language from birth are more likely to succeed academically when they get to school.

Reading is secondary to speech.

Children learn to talk by being talked to.

If your child goes to school without much vocabulary, don’t be surprised if the poor little thing has trouble learning to read.

“Studies show that children entering Kindergarten may have as much of a vocabulary gap as eight years – even before they begin school. That is because a child who has not been read aloud to may have the limited vocabulary of a 2-year-old, while a child who has been read aloud to every day may have the vocabulary of a 10-year-old.” —Children’s Literacy Initiative

From birth until about 20 months, a baby learns to mimic English speech sounds and understand words. Babies understand words long before they are able to speak them. They must hear a word hundreds of times before they can say it.

Talk to your baby as much as possible. Name everything–body parts, food, toys, clothing–everything. Describe what you are doing as you do it:

I’m cleaning the sink.

I’m putting away the groceries.

We’re going to the mailbox.

Sing to your baby, read to her. Make isolated speech sounds like “mmmmmmm” or “zzzzzzzzzz” or “sssssssssssss.” Say the same word over and over. Make up a silly song with the word and sing it. Watch an episode of the Teletubbies to see how to use repetition with very young children.

Reading is a child’s first encounter with formal learning. More hangs in the balance with beginning reading instruction than merely learning how to decipher printed words. The early reading experience can determine what kind of student the child will become for life.

The evidence is strong that young people who are not fluent readers and writers by the end of third grade may never catch up to their peers. Dr. Connie Juel (University of Virginia) found that first graders who were not on grade level by the end of the year had only a 1 in 10 chance of ever achieving grade level reading proficiency. —Children’s Literacy Initiative

Don’t be intimidated by the reading “experts.” Parents were teaching their children how to read long before the experts turned the activity into a billion-dollar industry. You don’t need a college degree in order to teach your child to read at home. You do need patience, and the willingness to learn something about English spelling.

Most of all, you must consciously build your child’s spoken and listening vocabulary.

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