Saturday, September 22, 2018

Children & Reading

If we want a society where people continue to read and then learn to write, it is important to start children on the road to reading as soon as possible.

Did you know the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended in 2014 that parents read to children from birth? From the New York Times article on this, Dr. Pamela High, who wrote the recommendations, thinks doctors should tell parents to read to their children every time they bring their children to the doctor's office.

Reading aloud does more than entertain. Even in adults, reading fires the brain's chemistry more than most activities, and research "showed heightened connectivity in the left temporal cortex, an area of the brain associated with receptivity for language."

Children who are read to learn letters, numbers, shapes, and colors early which gives them a head start when they start school. Evidence shows reading aloud helps children start talking sooner, creates smarter children, and helps children develop empathy (just as it does for adults). A parent or caretaker reading to a child also offers that child the comfort of sharing time, touch, and engagement. Hearing stories helps children to enjoy learning, leading them to complete high school, which often urges them into college. Most often this custom of early childhood reading creates life-long readers. The world needs this because right now one in four children grow up illiterate.

My son's favorite book. I must
have read it to him 50 times.
I believe hearing stories while seeing the words and images should start very early, and I certainly tried to encourage my children in that way. Before my children started sitting up by themselves, both my husband and I began reading to them every night until it was a ritual: dinner, a short playtime, a bath, a story or two while sitting together, and then bed. (It also made bedtime easier to accomplish.) As they became toddlers and preschoolers, the day always ended with a parent and child in bed reading a story together. It didn't even affect them that they heard the same story, for they chose the story to be read, and they had certain stories they loved hearing over and over. Surprisingly, I think it helped me to. Reading aloud and changing voices for different characters while reading is a talent to develop.

I do not remember my parents reading to me regularly, but do remember four of us crowding around Mom while she read, or we listened to Dad's tall tales at dinner; but once I learned at school, I was enchanted. I always had a book needing to be read, and frequently walked the two miles to the local library to get a different book, which provided exercise, too! It also allowed me to follow my passion at the time—horses. I couldn't own one but reading Smoky, the Cowhorse, and Black Beauty, My Friend Flicka, Thunderhead, and other horse stories gave me the sense of knowing a horse.

I know preschool and elementary schools are working very hard to teach children to read, and I love hearing and seeing news clips of children learning to read by reading to dogs or cats. What a good idea! Whoever thought of that? Many kudos to them!

Please read these authors' opinions on the topic:

Skye Taylor
Victoria Chatham
Dr. Bob Rich
Connie Vines
Anne de Gruchy
A.J. Maguire
Helena Fairfax
Fiona McGire


  1. Hi Rhobin, So far we have a lot of agreement over the benefit of parental reading among the posts I've read. There's nothing quite as satisfactory as a well written children's story. Reading them was no hardship - even when it was the third time for that story, that week! Anne

  2. I fully agree, Rhobin. I read to all my kids, and also to my little brother as soon as he was born.
    At the same time, it's interesting: in Steiner education, they delay the start of reading, I think to 8 years of age. Also, I believe in Russia the start of reading is traditionally later. They catch up very rapidly.

    1. Interesting, I had no idea about Steiner education and perhaps I should talk with my Russian daughter-in-law who is extremely smart.

  3. As you point out so well, reading is more than just reading - it's time spent together. Quality time. In a world where parents are ever more connected to their smart phones and overwhelmed with tasks and responsibilities in families with two working parents, that time spent reading is doubly precious just because it bonds us emotionally.

  4. It seems we all have similar views on the subject! It's been lovely to see that books I well remember are favourites of other authors, too. Rhobin, I had the same horse books you did and read them until they fell apart. As an adult I did hunt some of them down and now have a lovely illustrated first edition of Smoky and the same with Black Beauty. Thanks for this topic, it's been so encouraging to see that reading is still alive and well.

  5. In terms of the benefits to society, I have a bumper sticker on my truck, a quote from Ray Bradbury: You don't have to burn books to destroy a society. Just get people to stop reading them.

    Isn't that what we see all around us? People don't read, so they have no empathy for opposing or different viewpoints. They are gullible, believing whatever they hear, or read on the internet. So many problems could be solved if more people just read more!

  6. Almost everyone posting has noted that reading to children is crucial. I loved Black Beauty as a girl. Hans Brinker and the Silver Skates, too. Even comic books are better than not reading. It would be hard to learn to write well without reading. This was one of the best topics that you have ever come up with, and I just loved reading every post even though I opted outof posting due to overload. Anyway, it was great and I was just blown away by all wonderful posts. Thanks so much.

    1. Thanks, Judy. It is a very important topic and one I'm very interested in.

  7. Thanks for choosing another great topic, Rhobin. I love that your reading to your children became a habit. Once the habit is ingrained it becomes second nature simply to read, and children really enjoy that special time of closeness when a parent reads to them.
    Thanks for organising another great Round Robin!