Reading Into your Kids Future

By: Jerry Carpos

Copyright (c) 2007 Jerry Carpos

Reading is an excellent way to encourage kids to learn a lot of good stuff which can help them as they grow older. Improved vocabulary, language, and imagination are some benefits of reading. Parents and schools should therefore actively participate during reading sessions.

Language involves a highly specialized set of skills. It takes years to learn to speak and even longer to learn to read. Mankind spends more time on raising its young than any other species on Earth. Let us admit it, cultural achievements are so complex that it will will require a decade of intensive study on our part for us to master it or acquire even the basic notions. This knowledge is, of course, passed on to us mostly at school and almost entirely in written form.

Intellectual achievements took an upturn when the printing press was invented in 1450, although it took a few more centuries for the general public to start to read. The earlier a parent or guardian can make reading natural to the child, the better he or she will be able to assimilate school material later in life. Reading aloud to small children is directly associated with college achievement. More than half of those who read to their children are college graduates, most are women. Of mothers educated only to high school level, 44 percent read to their pre-school age children. For those who did not complete high school, the figure is lower, at 38%. Almost two thirds of white, non-hispanic children, are likely to be read to, as opposed to 41% of black, non-Hispanic children and 33% of Hispanic children.

How can you get children into reading and have fun with it at the same time? Basically, keep alert, follow your intuition and let your imagination run riot. Below you will find a number of tips, based on the experience of parents who have successfully encouraged a love of reading in their children.

The first thing to realize is that an interest in stories is completely natural to human beings. All societies started out with an oral tradition of story-telling. Tales were entertainment for dark winter nights, they were a means of passing on important cultural facts from one generation to another, and they bound the social group together in a common experience. First and foremost, they offered reassurance in an uncertain world.

Who has not experienced first hand, as a child, the deep comfort of listening to a story? I'm sure you can recall the excitement and delight of a particular tale, which you probably requested on repeated occasions. Perhaps it was a story which allowed free rein to exorcising deeply felt hopes and fears, as do the tales from Andersen and the Brothers Grimm. The child is both stimulated and soothed by the human voice. For making kids drowsy at bed-time, there is nothing better than a looong tale. The child knows from the voice that protection, i.e. an adult, is near. The tone of that voice is so familiar because the child could hear it before he or she was even born.

So, storytelling fulfills a set of primary needs of comfort for the child, who through listening becomes a member of the clan. This is the first benefit of reading aloud, and it is immediate. On top of this emotional stimulus, intellectual skills are built in a number of ways, as is described below.

When a child listens to a story, the child exercises a complex number of skils that can help develop the cognitive abilities of his/her developing brain. Firstly, what is being said is converted into images, i.e. represented in the mind. This is a powerful stimulant to the imagination and to intelligence itself: special abilities are especially spurred, so that the child who is read to can easily imagine, say, a room, a house, a forest, a park, and objects in relation to one another. High ability in diverse fields such as Mathematics and sports is directly related to a child's special ability.

Naturally, vocabulary is greatly enriched and general expression and articulacy promoted by listening to the language of stories, which tends to be both generally comprehensible, because it is part of a story with beginning, middle and end, and at the same time far richer and more complex than conversational and peer language.

Short-term memory is stretched along with the attention span, as the child follows the plot of the story. Reasoning and moral judgments are challenged, horizons are broadened. This will help with the child's own decision-making capacity and will encourage independent thinking.

Reading aloud is a theatrical experience, which is why it is fun. As with all performance, the pacing can make or break it. Preparation increases the pleasure and does not have to be elaborate. Selecting the text and familiarizing yourself with it, and if possible adding props, songs or rhymes, will all help to make your family reading more fun and memorable.

Your kids will thank you for it, and their school performance will improve. But remember, this is a long term thing. You'll know you've really been successful when your kids start to read aloud to their own children.

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