Helping your child develop and hone their reading skills early on in life can make a lasting positive impact throughout their education. While it may seem that reading is becoming less important with the rising popularity of audio and visual learning and entertainment, the ability to read still carries great importance. Not only does a good literary foundation help with schooling, but it also offers unlimited options for entertainment and encourages critical thinking.
American literacy rates
The United States of America might not seem like the place for a literacy crisis, but the numbers tell a different story. American literacy in the 21st century leaves something to be desired, and definitely has room for massive improvements. The statistics involved with literacy rates can be surprising, o say the least.
For example, more than 700,000 students who leave high school without a diploma have substandard literacy rates. Additionally, more than 60 percent of middle and high school students miss the mark when it comes to standard reading achievements. Improving literacy rates among students does so much more than simply improve their test scores or the ability to continue their education after their public schooling.
Fifty-two percent of adults who read below a fifth-grade level are out of the workforce, and those with only basic document literacy make a mere $300-$499 per week on average. Overall, low literacy in adults costs the United States an estimated $255 billion annually due to non-productivity and loss of tax revenue due to unemployment. Forty-three percent of adults who read below a fifth-grade level also live below the poverty line.
Reading to your child
The easiest way to ensure that your child has a good foundation for literacy is to read to them early and often. Many parents dread reading to their children because of the repetition of reading their favorite stories over and over, or a lack of confidence in their ability to bring the story to life for their children. However, once you learn how to comfortably read to your child, it can be just as enjoyable for you as it is for them.
Reading to your kids like a pro isn’t nearly as hard as it may first appear. First, go into it with education in mind by asking your child about the cover of the book. Ask them what they think the story might be about, or whether or not certain characters on the front will be the heroes or villains of the story. Next, ask them predictive questions that foster independent and critical thinking, like what they might expect to happen next in the story, or whether or not the happy ending is as happy as it appears. This approach can give your child confidence in their ability to read and understand a story going forward.
Finally, make sure that you have some fun with the story as you read it. Remember, even if something seems embarrassing to you as an adult, it is engaging for your child and they won’t harbor any judgement towards you if you go all out when reading to them. Don’t be afraid to use character voices or props to bring the story to life, and encourage your child to participate and tell the story themselves, unleashing their wonderful creativity.
Go to the library
There is a great myth prevalent in the U.S. that libraries are dying out. This is categorically false, as public libraries in the U.S. boast an astonishing 1.5 billion visits annually. Libraries are also dearly valued by local communities, with 66 percent interviewed by the Pew Research Center stating that the closure of their local library would have a negative impact on their community. The library may actually be growing, as the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 9 percent job growth for librarians through 2026.
Taking your child to a library can expose them to stories and genres that they may never encounter through their schooling, and can help them to expand their horizons. Additionally, by teaching your child how libraries work, you are setting them up for success if they decide to pursue higher education as they will be one step ahead of their fellow students when it comes to their ability to conduct research. Furthermore, regular trips to the library will help your child with the confidence to engage in self-learning on a wide variety of topics that they find interesting, opening doors that they may never have had access to otherwise.
However, not everyone has immediate access to their local library. If this is the case, don’t worry, as technology can help you achieve all the same goals from the comfort of your home. This is made possible through e-books, which offer an innovative online reading experience. There are many resources available online that curate large collections of books and audiobooks, either for free or for a small fee. This new unfettered access to thousands of books at home can give your child a leg up on the rest of their lives.
Frankie Wallace is a freelance journalist from Boise, Idaho and contributes to a variety of blogs across the web.