Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Medicine for the Soul

I love to read and always have, and even though I had three sisters and my family wasn’t well off by any means, my mother always made sure there were books in the house. Not only would we get books as gifts, we each had a library card at a pretty young age, and we continually added to our own supply every time the Scholastic Book Orders came out. My grandmother also taught us the value of books, and she never kept any on a shelf we couldn’t reach.

This approach to books and reading sort of went against the times. I am from the television generation where wholesome family entertainment each evening was sitting together in front of the television set, and we even had “TV” trays we could set up just so we wouldn’t miss our favorite shows. It was also the dawn of children’s television programming and parents didn’t think twice about plunking their children down in front of the tube for hours on end to watch the likes of Mister Rogers or Sesame Street-it was educational, so something should rub off…

But my mother would limit our time in front of the set (even though it would certainly have been easier for her)-we were often encouraged to read instead, and I am convinced that this helped me perform better in school, and made me want to be a life long learner. This love of the written word is exactly what I want to pass on to my own children, and I hope I have succeeded.

I started reading to my kids when they were still babies (around 5-6 months old) because I read study after study that touted the benefits of starting this early-just 15 minutes of reading each night encourages speech and language development, creates a love of reading, and affects their overall performance in school. Some studies say the earlier the better and here are some more facts from the Literacy Connections web site:
  • National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) 2000 found that "87% of fourth graders who loved to read on their own scored proficient on the exam (those who read very little performed at the Basic level)." And the students performing highest read for fun every day.

  • This U.S. Department of Education: students read to "at least three times a week by a family member, were twice as likely to score in the top 25%."

  • Young kids read to throughout the day did better in kindergarten.

    • Now take a look at some scary reports 

    • "The average kindergartner has watched 5000 hours of television" (the report states that this is longer than it takes to earn a Bachelor’s Degree!)  I also read a while back that "screen time"-this includes TV, computer, and hand held games-should be no more than 1 hour of your child's day, or no more than 7 hours a week...

    • "80% of college professors state that freshman cannot read well enough to do college level work."

    • US Department of Education-"a functionally illiterate adult earns 42% less than a high school graduate."

    • It is also critical that kids read well by the third grade-a new study reports that children who are not proficient readers by grade three have a much greater chance of dropping out of high school...

The thing is, reading to your children isn’t hard to start, and even though most nights I want to just plop down on the couch and veg (you know, after the homework checks, dinner, and running around), reading with the kids turns out to be my favorite time in the evening. We curl up in one of the kid’s beds or on the living room sofa, talk about what’s happening to the characters, and lose ourselves in the story of the moment (generally it’s a chapter book that we continue to read throughout the week). This is one of the best ways I know to relax and connect with my kids.

I was actually planning on reviewing the books I’m reading with my kids (we are switching between two stories lately) and what I’m currently reading, but I guess I sort of went off topic. However, I will make a point to share these in a future post and leave you with this thought:

"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."
~Strickland Gillilan

Happy reading everybody!


  1. I think I learned more from reading independently than I did from actual school work.

  2. I love reading to my kids, we had a goal of reading 1,000 books to each kid by the age of one. My son was reading by age four, so I think it worked!!!

  3. This is an excellent post. My mother read to me and I started reading to my kids when they were babies too. It did make a difference and I have one hard core reader that is always amazed at the lack of literacy she sees in school.
    I feel reading is the most valuable gift passed on in my family and I love the part about your grandmother because I have already set aside the books I'm saving for when I have grandchildren. I can't lift the boxes : )

  4. Susan, this is a great post for all parents to read. I try to instill my love of reading into my kids. My oldest son has lately been only reading sports' magazines. I just got him 2 novels at the library yesterday. Fingers crossed that they catch his interest!

  5. It's rough getting my son to read, though I do the best I can by getting him books on topics he enjoys.....sports for instance.

    We've started to really limit his tv/gaming time. It's just become TOO MUCH!

  6. DG, I often felt this way too. Any time I don't understand something I read about it.

    Molly, 1000?! Wow! I don't know if we read 1000, but I do remember reading "Goodnight Moon" over and over again. (I can still recite it from memory-LOL!)

  7. MOPTG, I'm running out of room for all our books!

    Septembermom, I "go with the flow" when it comes to reading material, but luckily my son likes books as well as the younger edition comic books.

    Nancy, we recently relented and bought my son a DS and I have had to regulate it's use because otherwise he would play it non-stop!

  8. I loved reading to my son, too. I started when he was 1-month old. He no longer sits still for book time, but I still read to him while he runs around his room. I read that reading to your kids helps with their speech, as well, although it didn't seem to help with my son. He is 2 and still does not talk well or put words together. Maybe it will work with my other son.

  9. Susan, great post!

    I've always loved reading, and when the twins were born, I wanted to make sure they shared that love. My son started reading at 18 months - while reading to him early helped, I think it is just in his genes. His sister is not at his level, but she has a love of books. She uses her imagination when she reads, and she loves being read to.

    Some nights I read with them, other nights my husband does, and if we're both unable, my four year old reads to his sister.

  10. You are such a good mother for taking the time to read with your kids! I'm sure it would be easier to sit in front of the t.v., but you go the extra mile. Your kids are lucky to have you!

  11. Susan, how I WISH my family had introduced me to reading. Actually, my defect--because the books were there in a public library. I just did not have motivation. ("To Each His Own")

    Are you the "stony River" Peep?

  12. Amo, give it time because he will. LOL!

    Flory, good to see you here! I still read to mine and they are 8 and 11...

    Mommy is Green, Thanks for the lovely comment!

  13. steveroni, there is only so much you can get someone to do, right? I visited the Stony River site again tonight to give my brain another go at the 140 word challenge...

  14. Those statistics/facts are scary to read, because I'm guilty of letting my kids watch a lot of tv. I do love it when I see them pick up a book, unfortunately, out of my four kids, only my daughter has this love of reading...

  15. Sandra, four kids are way more than two so I don't know if I could do what you do.


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