I was born in the thirties. My family was middle class – My Dad sat me on his knee just about every evening and read Br’er Rabbitt in the Montreal Star to me. The memory has lasted all of my 79 years. It stimulates the sweetest of my feelings about my late father.
And who knows – perhaps being read to, having the New York Times come into the house every Sunday and hearing Edward R. Murrow deliver the news on the radio all influenced my becoming a writer for a living.
Perhaps it’s also why all three of my own kids are articulate, all three played a role in the ad business and two of their kids are in communications-related careers.
Certainly, I and my own family benefited from my Dad reading aloud to me. But research says that doesn’t happen as much as needed today to develop children’s pre-literacy skills. In fact, according to research, you can start reading to children even as young as 18 months.
Make reading part of family visits.
In addition to a hug and a kiss and a few “What’s new?” questions, see what happens when you park a grandchild on your knee and read to them. Total engagement!
U.S. pediatricians will promote reading to children.
The Academy of American Pediatrics recognized the seriousness of the literacy problem in the U.S. So it recently announced a new policy asking doctors to advise parents at every visit to read to their children.
The Academy understands that reading to children builds vocabulary, provides a distinct advantage in school and enhances the child’s communication skills.
Seniors have an important role that comes with benefits – using fewer meds and enjoying a higher quality of life.
Lisa Morehouse wrote about it in edutopia. She told of a study that found residents of an Oklahoma retirement home reduced their meds use and reported a better quality of life – just from reading to kids in a program set up with a local pre-school.
The seniors weren’t the only ones to benefit. The Oklahoma program improved the reading skills of the children by about 10% by the time they entered first grade. It also reduced the number of grade one kids who required help with reading.
A number of retirement homes in Canada and the U.S. have set up formal reading to children programs with a public school system. Kate Hammer wrote about a reading to children program in Invermere, B.C., in a 2011 story in the Globe and Mail.
“Reading,” wrote Kate Hammer, “Is a skill often preserved long after
age has eroded other mental faculties. “
Her article quoted the founder of the program, who said,
“…the seniors make for patient teachers, and the children are at ease around them. They’re just completely accepting of each other. It makes for a million magic moments.”
Reading to children is more important than ever.
The challenge, of course, is that both parents often work. Picking up the kids from daycare, shopping, preparing dinner, attending to household chores, putting in extra time at work and enjoying personal interests can often mean reading to children slips between the cracks.
Not to mention that our digital world has kids handling smartphones and tablets, with their non-verbal icons, before they know how to turn a page.
In a Chicago Tribune article about other seniors reading to children, one of the seniors who participated said,
“I get a kick out of it. You feel like you’re doing something of a positive nature.”
Did I mention the deep emotional bond that develops between a child and a senior when they read aloud?
It lasts a lifetime.
Whether you’re a parent or a grandparent, why not read to the children in your life, more often?
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In summary: Reading to your grandchildren can be beneficial to them and to you.