By Sarah Hadsellkindergarten teacher, Thomas Edison Charter School South

YEARS AGO, I had a conversation with my older sister who had just sent her oldest child
off to kindergarten. We discussed all the fun things her son would do at school as well as all the great things he would learn. Then our casual chat took on a slightly more serious tone: My sister started talking about what she could do at home to support her son in his education. It was at that point that she said something incredibly powerful; she mentioned that if she could choose to do one thing for her child, it would be to read with him every day. Not so surprising, right? But it was her next statement that hit me hard enough that I still remember it 20 years later. “Everything in school will be easier for my son if I can help him become a good reader,” she said. Her point was this: By helping a child become a strong, confident, fluent reader, a parent is giving their child a gift that will help them with every subject and in every grade throughout the rest of their educational experience. Whether or not society believes that statement to be true, there are countless reasons that a parent should read with their child at home:

It Creates a Pleasure Connection

Orville Prescott once said, “Few children learn to love books by themselves. Someone has

to lure them into the wonderful world of the written word; someone has to show them the way.” By reading with their children at home, parents are introducing the concept that reading makes them happy. For some children, this idea is so foreign that they may not believe it unless they experience it firsthand. Parents can literally change a child’s life by patiently taking the time to explore their interests and then find books that heighten their young one’s curiosities.

It Builds Vocabulary and Grammar

Simply put, reading exposes children to far richer words, phrases, vocabulary, and grammar than they’re likely to ever encounter in everyday conversations. This repeated exposure will improve a child’s own vocabulary. Once empowered with higher-level language skills, most children will see improvements in their own speech and writing.

It Provides a Reading Role Model

Part of the process of becoming a skilled reader is the acquisition of skilled expression when reading aloud. This is an ability that is just as important as learning the phonogram sounds in words.

Beginning readers spend most of their effort slowly and methodically deciphering and decoding text. But as they improve their fluency and proficiency, they can add the skill of reading with expression. Parents become part of this process and teach vital skills when they adjust their pacing to fit the story, add emphasis when needed, and inject emotion as they read.

Small, Consistent Effort Counts

When families make a conscious and consistent effort to read with their children every day, it doesn’t take long for the dividends to add up. Jim Trelease, author ofThe Read-Aloud Handbook, says, “The more you read, the better you get at it; the better you get at it, the more you like it; and the more you like it, the more you do it.” Goals can start small and grow with time. But even five minutes of daily reading will make a difference in a child’s life. Every type and style of paired reading will lead to something good. The most important thing is to be consistent and to have fun with it.

Amazing Things Happen When You Try

Despite the benefits that come from reading at home with children, it’s easy for some families to feel deflated and defeated before they even try. Life is busy. But the truth is, amazing things will happen when parents are brave enough to try.