One of the most important things parents can do, beyond keeping kids healthy and safe, is to read with them. That means starting when they are newborns and not even able to talk, and continuing well beyond the years that they can read by themselves. Study after study shows that early reading with children helps them learn to speak, interact, bond with parents and read early themselves, and reading with kids who already know how to read helps them feel close to caretakers, understand the world around them and be empathetic citizens of the world.
We spoke with Liza Baker, the executive editorial director at Scholastic, which just released its Kids & Family Reading Report.
“It’s so important to start reading from Day One,” she says. “The sound of your voice, the lyrical quality of the younger [books] are poetic … It’s magical, even at 8 weeks old they focus momentarily, they’re closer to your heart.” As they begin to grow, families should make sure books are available everywhere in the home, like it’s your “daily bread.” (Amen.) But it shouldn’t end when kids begin to read on their own. “As they become independent readers, we tend to let them go, but even kids in older demographics love nothing more than that time with their parents,” Baker says. “We’re blown away that kids time and again said the most special time they recall spending with a parent is reading together.”
Read aloud early — and keep it going! The good news, according to the new Kids & Family Reading Report by Scholastic, is that more than three out of four parents who have children ages 5 and younger start reading aloud before their child reaches his first birthday. This practice increased to 40 percent in 2016 from 30 percent in 2014 among parents who read aloud before their baby is 3 months old. The research also showed that more parents of 3- to 5-year-olds are reading aloud frequently, with 62 percent of these parents reading aloud five to seven days a week, compared with 55 percent in 2014.
But it’s not all great news: There’s been a drop in parents continuing to read aloud after age 5.
Tip to keep it going: Have fun and be playful. Use this as an opportunity to ham it up and perhaps create different character voices to really engage the child. Don’t be shy about not perfecting the read aloud — especially with little ones. Don’t feel discouraged if a younger child gets distracted or interrupts story time with questions. That’s all part of the learning journey and reading process. In fact, books like those in the new StoryPlay series feature prompts and questions for the parent to ask throughout the story to keep young kids engaged and to enhance early reading comprehension.
As for kids in the early elementary level, it’s still important to read aloud, and there are many books to choose from. Try Dog Man by Dav Pilkey, to associate reading as a laugh-out-loud experience. For kids ages 8 and beyond — who still love being read to, according to our research — go for modern classics like the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling, a perfect family read aloud, including the new illustrated editions with art by Jim Kay.
Be a resource to your kids for book ideas — even if they don’t ask — especially for infrequent readers. Scholastic’s research shows that parents underestimate that kids need help finding books. Only 29 percent of parents agree “my child has trouble finding books he/she likes,” whereas 41 percent of kids say finding books they like is a challenge. This number increases to 57 percent among infrequent readers.