The Give Back, Give Books campaign is all about building literacy, because we know that great readers are more likely to be more successful academically and in their lives beyond school.
But what can you do at home every day to help make your children readers for life?
Literacy as a Way of Life
Pleasure reading boosts literacy. It's just that simple. Like any other kind of exercise, study after study shows that the more you read, the better you read. And along with more reading comes an increase in vocabulary, general knowledge of the world, overall verbal ability, and -- last but not least -- achievement in school.
Written language is different from conversational language, and it has a special capacity to increase your vocabulary and improve your ability to:
- choose and words carefully and use them appropriately
- organize information more logically
- connect thoughts using sentence structures that are more complex
All these abilities are developed quietly and unconsciously through reading. And pleasure reading -- reading for the sheer fun of it -- is the best way to encourage our children to be great readers.
So how can you take action?
- Make sure there is a wide variety of books and magazines around your house at all times.
- Use the library! Make family trips to the library a regular event.
- Read together. Put family reading time on your daily schedule. Model lifelong reading for your children.
- Discuss the things you read. Talk with your children about the things you're reading and encourage them to share their reading adventures with you.
Read-Aloud Inspires a Love of Literature
As Jim Trelease has written:
Wherever in the world it is done, in the home or in the classroom, reading aloud serves as a commercial for the pleasures of reading. This is the catalyst for the child wanting to read on his own. But it also provides a reading foundation by nurturing the child's listening. Listening comprehension comes before reading comprehension.
Consider, for example, the word "enormous." If a child has never heard the word "enormous," he's unlikely to ever say the word. And if he's neither heard it nor said it, imagine the difficulty when it's time to read it and write it. The listening vocabulary is the reservoir of words that feeds the speaking vocabulary, the reading vocabulary and the writing vocabulary -- all at the same time.
Jim Trelease is the all-time super-hero champion of read-aloud ...but you can be the Wizard of Read-Aloud in your home. Read-aloud is a singular joy and creates a special bond between the reader and the child.
In a 1985 report by the Commission on Reading entitled Becoming a Nation of Readers, one finding stood out:
"The single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children."
We need to read to children long before they learn to read and long after they learn to read. That children need to be read to in their pre-school years is easy to grasp -- they can't yet read for themselves, after all -- but why continue reading aloud after a child has learned to read? Because a child's listening vocabulary is always much more advanced than his or her reading vocabulary. Continued read-aloud will fuel the desire to read better, while growing a child's storehouse of words, concepts, and knowledge of the world.
Oh yeah... and it's pure joy!
Reading: Voluminously and Voluntarily (PDF format)
republished with the permission of Scholastic Corporation
Literacy Begins at Home
Checklists for children of all ages:
Tips & Resources
Parent & Guardian Handbook, published by the National Children's Book and Literacy Alliance
Excerpts from Jim Trelease's Read-Aloud Handbook:
Read to Me International