Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Guest Post: Reading to your Children

We all can remember those special times when a story was read to us, whether at home by somebody we love, at school, or maybe at the library. The story came to life, and we were enthralled with the words. The magic of story reading is a powerful tool.

At least 55% of Utah's parents read to their children ages 0-5 everyday compared to 47.9% of the nation, according to a survey conducted by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention National Center of Health Statistics.

Why does reading aloud matter so much?  Those children in the 55% of Utah families who are read to daily are developing literacy skills and language awareness.They have larger vocabularies, which at age three is a large predictor of language skill and reading comprehension for ages 9-10. But the benefits of reading aloud aren’t just linguistic; spending that time together can also build relationships between parents and children.

Utah County mom Ceci Hermann has seen those benefits firsthand. “[My son] Jake is older and can read and loves to read. [But] he loves it when I have time to sit with him and read to him out of his books. [It’s] great bonding time. [W]hen [you] start [when they are] young, [you cultivate]love for reading. [It’s a] win-win [situation].”

Of course, parents know that reading to children is not always easy. It is important to find your special way to read that will engage the listener. Some simple ways to engage young readers include using special voices for different characters, reading at a certain time each day, or having a special place to read together.

Another Utah mom Jackie Haleua, explains how she and her daughter found ways to enjoy reading together. At first, Haleua struggled with reading to her fourteen month old daughter, who would always push books out of her lap. Then Haleua’s mother volunteered to help her for ten days with bed time, while her husband was out of town.

“[My mother and daughter] read four-five children's books each night and looked at everything on each page [and talked about what it was]. Not only did [my mom]save bedtime-- my daughter loves reading stories before bed now--but she helped my daughter learn new words.

“[Before we started reading every night,] our pediatrician felt like [my daughter] was a little behind in her vocabulary. She didn't know as many words as she should have by 15 months. The time my mom spent with her showed me how to engage my daughter with books and she caught up on her vocabulary by her 18-month checkup.”

Fitting reading into the family’s routine is an important step in making it an enjoyable family activity, like Haleua reading to her daughter before bed.

Finding the time to read to your little ones is an excellent way to bond, share special memories, and learn together. Reading out loud to kids can help cultivate their love of reading, and use their minds to imagine what’s happening in the story. Reading out loud to children can also help improve their memories.Kids are excited to be read to, and love the time they get to spend one on one with their parents.

Rachel Mooney, a young mother of two, has a toddler and a four year old who she reads to consistently everyday. “Declan loves to be read to! He will run and get a book when I ask him if he wants to read a story. Then he will back up to me and sit in my lap. He repeats a lot of the words read to him and seeing pictures helps him learn what certain things are.”

Sarah Hodgson, mother to a one-year-old son, can see the impact reading has on her son already. “He learns what objects are [from reading], and when he sees them in person he will point at things now and get excited from recognizing what they are.”

Reading out loud to children is one of the most impactful actions we can do to prepare kids for the future. By committing today to read with your children, you will be laying the foundation for those literacy skills that are essential for educational success. So pick up that picture book, cozy on up with a blanket, and enjoy the special moment of reading to your child.

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