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Reading: The Gift of a Lifetime

Reading - The Gift of a Lifetime
Why spending even five minutes of reading-time into your child’s day can have long-lasting benefits.

Reading - The Gift of a LifetimeExperts 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.

About the author

Crystal Plante

Crystal Plante

Crystal is a teacher, reading specialist, freelance writer, author, and married mother of four. In her spare time—or whatever spare time a mother of four has—she enjoys reading, cooking, watching television, and volunteering in her community. Crystal is an unabashed chocoholic and a long-suffering (but recently redeemed) fan of the Kansas City Chiefs. You can visit her website at

  • Jen Leeman

    I love this. I do think reading to your child is so important for their verbal and language development. I’m glad to hear that fluency is expected by 4th grade. I was a bit concerned when my daughter was younger that she wasn’t as fluent as she could be, but by 4th grade she was a great reader, and even signed up as a volunteer for a school program called Library Buddies where she helped younger kids develop a love of reading.

  • Alea Milham

    Great article! I have started reading to my kids when they were just a couple weeks old and they have all turned out to be enthusiastic readers.

  • Katie Hale

    We read to both of our boys from the time they were babies. Both were early great readers too! Our almost 7 year old reads on a 5th grade level already because we have continued to encourage it. :

  • Tatanisha Worthey

    Great tips! I know sometimes I get busy and overwhelmed, but this is VERY important to do with your children each day. We have been reading to the boys since they were in the womb!

  • Sadie

    We love to read! 🙂 These are great tips.

  • nichole

    i always loved to read as a child and now too! I wish David loved to read but he doesn’t.. hopefully when we have our own tots I will have lots of books to pass down 🙂

  • I agree with your thoughts. Reading was on of the most important things to share with a child from the beginning at our house too.

  • Taylor Speikers

    My mom and I used to read books together and see who could finish first! I hope to do the same with my daughter 🙂

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