Declaration of Independence

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. - That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Reading and Family Bonding

                Parents can strengthen their children by reading to them as small children and encouraging them to learn to read well by themselves.  Parents hold a key position in insuring that their children know how to read by the third grade.  Parents should understand that illiteracy – the inability to read – could lead to high school dropouts and problems with the juvenile court system.  Parents can strengthen their communities and nation as well as their families by sharing the love of reading with their children.

                A Deseret News editorial suggested that traditional reading could “gradually disappear” as education and the workforce move into the digital era.  The editorial then quoted some data from a report published in the New York Times in 2014:  31 percent of children participating in the report read for pleasure on a daily basis, down 6 percent in just four years.  “The report found that children who read consistently until high school were often read to since childhood by their parents.”

                The report also stated some patterns among the “heavier readers”:  (1) The younger children (6-11)  “being read aloud to regularly” and restriction of screen time and (2) The older children(12-17) having “time to read on their own during the school day.”
                “`A lot of parents assume that once kids begin to read independently, that now that is the best thing for them to do,’ said Maggie McGuire, the vice president for a website for parents operated by Scholastic.
                “But reading aloud through elementary school seemed to be connected to a love of reading generally.  According to the report, 41 percent of frequent readers ages 6 to 10 were read aloud to at home, while only 13 percent of infrequent readers were being read to….
                “Of course, children who love to read are generally immersed in households with lots of books and parents who like to read.  So while parents who read to their children later in elementary school may encourage those children to become frequent readers on their own, such behavior can also result from `a whole constellation of other things that goes on in those families,’ said Timothy Shanahan, professor emeritus of urban education at the University of Illinois at Chicago and a past president of the International Reading Association.
                “There is not yet strong research that connects reading aloud at older ages to improved reading comprehension.  But some literacy experts said that when parents or teachers read aloud to children even after they can read themselves, the children can hear more complex words or stories than they might tackle themselves.”

                The New York Times published an announcement from the American Academy of Pediatrics in June 2014:  “With the increased recognition that an important part of brain development occurs within the first three years of a child’s life, and that reading to children enhances vocabulary and other important communication skills, the group, which represents 62,000 pediatricians across the country, is asking its members to become powerful advocates for reading aloud, every time a baby visits the doctor.
                “`It should be there each time we touch bases with children,’ said Dr. Pamela High, who wrote the new policy.  It recommends that doctors tell parents they should be `reading together as a daily fun family activity’ from infancy….
                “Reading, as well as talking and singing, is viewed as important in increasing the number of words that children hear in the earliest years of their lives.”

                The Deseret News editorial continued by explaining some of the benefits of reading:  (1) helps children develop mentally,
(2) Encourages creativity and comprehension, (3) gives children a better chance to remain on the straight and narrow (“Eighty-five percent of juveniles in the nation’s juvenile court system are functionally illiterate; over 60 percent of incarcerated individuals are functionally illiterate.”)
(4) Gives parents and children time together in a constructive activity.

                “Parents who make reading for pleasure an important part of home life ultimately give their children a better chance to succeed on multiple levels.  In education, reading at a proficient level by third grade is critical.  Literacy specialist Kathy Callister found that third grade was the pivotal moment in early education because it’s when the students move beyond fundamentals and start reading for meaning.
                “Lizzy Reano, initiative manager of KSL’s “Read Today” program, told the Deseret News that if children aren’t proficient in reading by third grade, they are four times more likely to drop out of high school in Utah.
                “Reading early on in the home is a big step in the right direction to help children reach proficiency by the third grade.  Alarmingly, 91 percent of parents who took a Scholastic survey reported reading less to their children as soon as the child reached age 9, which is about third grade.
                “The main reason parents stopped reading to these children is because the children could read independently by then.  But 40 percent of the children of that age group said they wanted their parents to continue reading to them.  And the children’s reasons?  Because reading with parents provided a special bonding time and reading together was a fun activity.  By contrast, the main goals of the parents in reading to young children at home were to improve their child’s vocabulary and language skills, followed closely by a strong desire for their children to enjoy books.
                “So whether parents read to their children at home to prepare them for school, to open doors for them down the road or simply to increase family bonding time, parents should make reading at home a regular pursuit.”

                I totally agree with this editorial and appreciate the information in the reports noted in the various articles.  I know the importance of reading to young children. I remember the many times my children – and later grandchildren - gathered around me, some on my lap, some on either side and possibly some on the back of the couch.  Children of all ages – including college age – love to gather with family to read and/or discuss what they are reading individually.   Some families have reading clubs with their adult children where they read individually and share their thoughts by email.  Our family tried this idea but was not successful at it.  I would like to try again but would rather my children spend their time teaching and bonding with their own children.

                Family scripture time is one good idea for reading together.  Some families gather to read a chapter in a fiction or non-fiction book and then close their reading time with the scriptures and prayer.  Other families read together on trips in the car.  My sister shared how she read to her teenage and adult grandchildren (one of the grandchildren was driving the car) all the way from Oregon to Utah.  They all enjoyed the story and the bonding time.  The important thing for parents to do is to find a good time to read to their children as well as a good time for their children to read on their own.  We can all strengthen our families, communities, and nation by learning to read well and reading together as families.

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