Discussions of Mormons and Mormon life, Book of Mormon issues and evidences, and other Latter-day Saint (LDS) topics.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Parents, Read to Your Young Children

It is amazing how many mistakes we parents can make over the years in raising kids. I've made more than I can count, and more than I wish to remember, but somehow they managed to rise above all that and become pretty amazing people. There is one thing that I think my wife and I did right -- well, pretty much my wife, with just a little help from me. That was reading to our children while they were small. Trying to teach them the principles of the Gospel is up there also, of course, but tonight I want to put in a good word for reading.

I really think one of the most important things we did as parents was to read to our children while young, well before they could read. Whether it was children's books and stories or even more advanced material, sitting with them and reading out loud signaled that reading matters. They sensed that and sought to master that skill. We coupled that with phonics training since they usually weren't getting it at school.

We were amazed one day when we heard our oldest son, just five years old, behind his closed door giving a lecture to his three-year-old brother. He was systematically explaining how to sound out letters and read words, drilling and correcting his pupil. He was holding a reading class of his own on the side, and the three-year-old was paying attention. We hadn't tried teaching the three-year-old at that level, but his older brother didn't see any point in waiting and plowed ahead. The three-year-old was soon reading basic words and became a skilled reader far earlier than we expected. It made us realize that we shouldn't be afraid to teach basic skills even earlier than we assumed would work.

All four of our boys exceeded our expectations academically and have just amazed us with what is possible. Parents (as in mostly my wife) spending plenty of time reading to children while very young makes a huge difference, in my limited experience. My wife was able to stay at home while they were young, a luxury not available to all and a sacrifice that I am grateful for, and I think that was an important factor for my boys.

We used lots of kids books and other materials, but over the years we always did regular family scripture study, and I think that really helped. The King James Version of the Bible and the Book of Mormon have that old-fashioned English that we don't use much, but the challenge of dealing with these complex texts and big words added another level of richness to their reading experiences and skills. I don't regret a minute of it.

11 comments:

Papa D said...

I could have written this post - word for word. I spent almost 10 years working in the early reading arena in one way or another, and what you describe is spot-on. With the exception of the naturally gifted, who have the ability to make up for differences in early childhood exposure, the most successful readers at the end of 1st Grade by and large are the most successful readers at the end of 4th Grade. The correlation is astounding.

Papa D said...

I forgot to add that the disparity at the end of 4th Grade almost never vanishes - again, except in the cases of very high natural IQ.

Also, the single biggest indicator of reading success other than phonological awareness (the awareness of and ability to navigate symbolic sounds) is vocabulary acquisition prior to entering school. Those with a limited vocabulary almost always struggle more than those with a broad vocabulary.

Willis Whitlock said...

Can't help but think of the kids who come into my classroom, parents as young as 14.

Some are barely literate. I'm not sure there is reading going on in those homes, which tends to lead to more of the same.

A lot of government money could be replaced by simply reading to kids.

SlalomHO said...

we should pause to consider the state of a society in which the economic ability of a mother to elect to remain at home to raise her children has become a luxury

Jennifer said...

My first grader started taking a turn reading during our morning scripture study. It's amazing the difference it has made in her reading skills. She was doing very well before, but now she's really taken off.

Ryan said...

We're big fans of reading. During summer months when it's not nasty and icy outside my wife and our girls trek to the local library with a roller suitcase (!) every week -- they don't have a limit on how many books you can check out.

readerMom said...

We encourage our kids to start reading along with the scriptures as early as they can, even our two year old will repeat back her verse. It seems to help them read fluently more easily.
We read a lot as a family anyway, but the scriptures add to it I think.

Daniel-in-the-Den said...

We had a similar experience with our oldest daughter, Hannah, teaching our second daughter, Elizabeth, various things. I read to my daughters almost every night and my wife does the homeschooling by day. Our daughter Hannah loves to read. It is so important to instill that love of reading as early as they are ready.

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Not-Too-Desperate House Dad said...

Poor reading ability is also one of the key predictors for criminal behavior and gang involvement. One of the best ways to keep the next generation on the straight and narrow is to teach them to read - that's what really gives people hope (well, the Gospel of Jesus Christ does, too - but it's hard to really appreciate it when you can't read the Word).

J said...

When my parents found out that their child was born with a hearing loss, they learned that such children tend to have reading and language problems.
My parents were determined to not let her son grow up with a poor reading skills like other hard of hearing children. They constantly read to her son, did flash cards with her son and did everything she could to have her son develop good reading skills.

By the time thier son was in 6th grade, he had a reading level of a college graduate student.

I am that child. I will be graduating from law school in May. I wouldn't be where I am today if my parents hadn't worked hard to help their son develop a love for reading.

I believe that sitting with your child and reading with them, buying them books and instilling them a love for literature is the best way to lay the foundation for their future personal success.

Mary said...

I read to my kids starting when they were very young all the way through high school. I was frustrated with the school system. One of my kids struggled a bit with reading. in 2nd and 3rd grade I asked for help from the "reading specialist" and was told she didnt work with kids in the lower grades. Then in 4th grade I was told they were now focusing on the early grades but she would try to squeeze my child in. I never tried to teach my kids phonics, I just read to them. Reading to your kids is not a magic pill. It doesn't guarantee that they will be academic superstars. But it is always time well spent. I even read some of the required HS books to my kids just to get them through them. I bought a used copy of "Grapes of Wrath" on tape and we listened to it on a long car trip the summer it was required. Then I donated it to the school library!