Three out of every five children grow up struggling to read. They fall behind in school making them more likely to drop out of high school, hold a low paying job, and live in poverty as an adult. Kids Soar, a local nonprofit, provides an after-school literacy program so that children can soar to success and break the cycle of poverty in their families and in our community. Reading gives every child the chance for a better future.
We all know that time with our children is precious. However, what if I told you that your time with them is even more valuable than you might have thought? Beginning at an early age, children are constantly learning. According to the Reading Foundation, “between birth to age 5, a child learns at a speed unmatched the rest of his or her life! It is during these years – when more than 85 percent of a child’s brain is formed.” As your children are growing and developing at such a rapid rate, one of the best things you can do is read to them. “Reading builds brains, fostering early learning and creating connections in the brain that promote language, cognitive, and social and emotional development” (read20minutes.com).
However, reading isn’t just beneficial for kids under the age of 5. In fact, establishing a habit of reading each day can make a big difference in your child’s academic achievement. Let’s look at a couple of examples of what reading can do:
It’s amazing the difference in each of these areas between reading 20 minutes a day versus reading just 5 minutes a day. Developing this habit in your child will require time, effort, and discipline from you. You will need to set reminders each day to help you remember when it’s time for them to read. If your child is younger, then you will have to be the one doing the reading. But, as they get older, and as you have helped them develop the skill to sit still for 20 minutes and read, they will be able to become more self-sufficient. Put in the work at the beginning and you (and your child) will be able to reap great rewards!
Here are some helpful ways you can promote a habit of reading in your family:
- Start out each day with reading. If you (or your children) are early risers, make reading a part of your morning. Set aside 20 minutes to read with your children at the breakfast table, or before you even get out of bed. If your children are able to read by themselves, they can read while eating breakfast or on the drive to school. This is a great way to get their mind going and their day started.
- End your day with reading. There’s nothing like a good bedtime story. You can read several books with your younger children before they get in bed, or you can read several chapters of a longer story together with your older children each evening. Once you get in the habit of reading daily, you will find yourself looking forward to that time with your children.
- Find stories or topics your children are interested in. If you have children who are able to read on their own, it might be a battle getting them to sit down and read by themselves. See if you can find books that go hand in hand with their interests. Does your child like to play with toy horses? Find books about horses. Is your child fascinated by insects? Find books about insects. There are so many books out there, you’ll be able to find one to match any interest.
- Read aloud to your children. Having multiple children at different ages and reading levels shouldn’t mean you always have to carve out time to read with each one individually. Find a book that might interest several of your children and read it aloud, or have your oldest read aloud to the whole family. Not only will this benefit all your children, but it also creates a fun, family event and memories that will last a lifetime.
- Reward your children for reading. Make reading fun! Give them small rewards or prizes each time they finish a book. Maybe they get to choose what to eat for dinner that night. Maybe they get to pick out a toy next time you’re at the store. You can decide! If your child is reading larger books that take a longer time to finish, make the prize a little bigger. If you are reading short books and finish one or two each day, let them get a prize at the end of each week. Creating an environment that rewards reading will help your child learn to love reading.
- Look for summer or school year reading programs. It’s not hard to find a summer reading program at a church or library that encourages children to read and offers prizes when they meet certain benchmarks. Check with your child’s school library and see if they offer any reading programs throughout the school year. These programs offer motivation through prizes and competition (even if the competition is just against themself.) Look for other fun ways to motivate your child to continue reading.
In an effort to help encourage children in the Roanoke Valley to develop a habit of reading, Kids Soar developed its Book Buddy program. Previously vetted volunteers are matched up with each child who signs up and they read together over the phone one day a week for at least 20 minutes. Sometimes you just need a break; sometimes your child does better reading with an adult who isn’t you. Whatever the reason, this program is for you. This free program is dedicated to helping every child develop the skills needed to succeed in school and create in each child a love for reading. Any child can sign up for this program, even if they don’t participate in our after-school literacy program. You can sign your child up at: kidsoar.org/book-buddy
If you’d like more information about Kids Soar, you can visit: kidsoar.org. There you will find information about our program as well as volunteer and donation opportunities.
“I have a passion for teaching kids to become readers, to become comfortable with a book, not daunted. Books shouldn’t be daunting, they should be funny, exciting and wonderful; and learning to be a reader gives a terrific advantage.” – Roald Dahl