Experts recommend reading to your child everyday, beginning at birth, to build a solid literary foundation. It sounds perfectly reasonable until you actually become a parent. Once parenthood hits, the realities of feeding and diapering and bathing and sleepless nights immediately tend to push any utopian notions of daily reading to the back burner.
Don’t feel bad! As a mother of four, I understand. The baby is fussy, the toddler is out of sorts, and time gets away from you—it happens. But as a reading specialist, I also understand how vital early literacy experiences are toward future reading success. Reading to your child everyday may just be the most important activity you can participate in to potentially help your child’s future academic success. With that much at stake, it’s worth scheduling reading time, no matter how brief, into your everyday activities.
Literacy development is divided into four categories: emergent, beginning, transitional, and fluent. The definitions of each category are unimportant, but the fact is that children should achieve the final category, fluency, by fourth grade. In layman’s terms, that means that your child should have mastery of basic reading skills by the time they are ten years old. At this point, a child is expected to move from learning to read to reading to learn. The transition is huge, and children who do not achieve this vital level are at a distinct academic disadvantage that is likely to widen as the years pass.
Back that up ten years and see where we are. If we only have ten years to teach a child everything there is to know about reading—the alphabet, phonemes, understanding multi-syllabic words—a head start on those skills is essential. Does that mean your child should be reading before walking through those preschool doors? Of course not. But some basic reading skills, such as knowing how to handle a book, that words move from left to right within the English language, that books and stories are enjoyable, and that words are made up of letters means your child is on track toward hitting the fourth grade fluency mark.
So snuggle into the rocking chair, pull out Goodnight Moon, and take a five-minute reading break with your little one. It seems like such a small thing, but I assure you that your child will reap a lifetime of benefits because of it.