In honor of the National Book Festival, which took place on Saturday, August 30th at the Washington Convention Center I thought I would talk more about reading. In between the ranting and raving about my love for books in my last post, I briefly mentioned that books are good for kids. Well, that is good to know, but why? What makes reading and books so important to children's development?
This video and the additional article below help to explain why. The statistics from the video are staggering. One third of children enter kindergarten without the necessary pre-reading skills. As children grow older, the numbers only get worse-two thirds are not reading proficiently by the end of third grade. This is important as third grade is the year that the 'reading shift' happens (this is not a technical term-I made it up). In third grade, children shift from learning to read to reading to learn. In other words, children are expected to be proficient enough readers at this point that they can comprehend what they read and begin to analyze it. This is hard work for children no matter what their skill level and it is incredibly difficult, nearly impossible, if they are struggling to read the words in front of them. Many teachers I know would like the ability to take the time to work more intensely with these children, but with pressures from their principals, districts, and the state, finding that time is also nearly impossible. Because of this, some of these children will fall significantly behind in school or be identified as having a learning disability.
Reading helps the brain develop. When you read a book or are read to, it stimulates brain connectivity. Studies have shown that changes occur in the left temporal lobe, which is a part of the brain associated with receptive language. Receptive language is the understanding of language-not just the words themselves, but also the meaning behind those words. Reading helps stimulate this part of the brain so that children are better able to utilize this skill of understanding language. Reading also helps one develop Theory of Mind (ToM), which is the ability to understand that others have differing points of views, beliefs, and intentions. Theory of Mind helps a child develop perspective-taking, which is helpful in the development of empathy. So believe it or not, reading can help your child with their moral development, which is just as important as cognitive and social development. Check out this article for even more information on this topic: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-athletes-way/201401/reading-fiction-improves-brain-connectivity-and-function
So the American Academy of Pediatrics is recommending that parents start reading daily to their children from infancy and as far as I'm concerned that means from birth. That's right-I said birth. As soon as you get home from the hospital (or better yet bring a few board books in your hospital bag), start reading at least one book every day. This can be done during other activities such as feeding or as your baby (and you!) is about to fall asleep. Just make sure that your child is hearing those wonderful sing-song words of children's literature. It can be a wonderful bonding time with your baby as well. You will probably learn new things about your child's development and interests while reading as well. They will start to point to things and repeat the words that you are saying (or trying to) and making connections that will surprise and delight you both. Keep reading every day until, well, forever. If your child doesn't want to be read to anymore, let them catch you reading. This is wonderful modeling for children and adolescents. Make books a part of your family's every day life.
By the way-you might have noticed that this is a PBS article. That was purposeful. The National Book Festival is sponsored in part by PBS so I thought it was fitting to use a PBS article for this post. I'm not getting any kickbacks from the station; I just thought it was an interesting video and a good fit.
Hopefully you got a chance to check out the book festival. It was only one day this year and it was also inside (instead of being out on the National Mall dealing with weather issues like intense heat or rain), which means it was CROWDED. But as always it was a lot of fun and I am already look forward to next year. They have stuff for kids of all ages and adults too! I found lots of books for both me and my kids to enjoy. For more information about the festival check out the website: http://www.loc.gov/bookfest/
Now get reading!