We live in an amazing age of technology. Never before have we had so much information available at our fingertips (literally). We have the convenience of cell phones, laptops, video phones, instant messaging, texting, iPhones, email and more. If you ever have a question about anything you can Google it, and if you want to keep in touch just Twitter or get on Facebook.
All of these things are wonderful and connect people like never before. They give us access to more information in two seconds than a person in the 16th Century was exposed to in their entire life.
With all the influx of technology, I sometimes wonder if we’re losing some of the essentials. A 13-year-old girl won $25,000 from a texting competition (she averages over 8,000 texts per month to friends and family), but 37% of fourth graders are below a ‘basic’ reading level.
Speaking of fourth graders, many states, like California, use fourth grade literacy rates to estimate how many prison cells they need to build for future inmates. There is a direct link between illiteracy and crime. The average American reads less than one book per year, and 55% of Americans do not read a non-fiction book after high school.
- On average, Americans ages 15 to 24 spend almost two hours a day watching TV, and only seven minutes of their daily leisure time on reading.
- American 15-year-olds ranked fifteenth in average reading scores for 31 industrialized nations, behind Poland, Korea, France, and Canada, among others.
- Money spent on books, adjusted for inflation, dropped 14 percent from 1985 to 2005 and has fallen dramatically since the mid-1990s.
Is it any wonder that literacy is on the decline, with Americans spending more on fast food than books and education combined. Over 1.9 Billion dollars is spent on Halloween candy each year, and over $2 billion on chewing gum.
Well, the economy is not good right now, we can’t afford to buy books. Consider for a moment how much you spend on ‘necessary’ expenses like cell phones, internet, cable, Direct TV, movies, video games and more. Americans easily spend hundreds per month on these expenses. While there is nothing inherently wrong with this, ask yourself, to you have a budgeted amount for books?
Brian Tracy said that you can tell a person’s values by their actions. If you believe reading is important, and you want your children to reap the full benefits of life-long learning, are your actions (and more specifically your spending) conveying that message to your children? If you spend your money every month so that there’s nothing left over for books, then your actions say that books really aren’t that important to you.
But they are important, crucially important. Here’s why:
Fourth-graders who reported daily reading for fun scored higher on the NAEP reading test than peers who reported less reading for fun (NCES, 2001b).
Children who score at the 90th percentile on a reading test spent five times as many minutes per day reading books as children at the 50th percentile (Anderson, Wilson & Fielding, 1988).
- Children and adults who read become more intelligent, influential, earn a larger income and achieve higher levels of success
So what determines whether you raise a reader or a texter?
Families play an important role in their children’s reading success.
Studies of individual families show that what they do to support literacy in the home is more important to student success than family income or education (Ballen & Moles, 1994).
When adults interact with young children — talking, singing and playing rhyming games — they stimulate language and vocabulary development and build important foundations for learning to read (Hart & Risley, 1995).
Reading to preschoolers is the most important thing families can do to prepare them for reading (Adams, 1990).
Reading aloud to infants stimulates their brains to create new learning pathways and strengthen existing ones (Shore, 1997).
Simply put, give books and reading and important place in your life. Let your actions reflect that it is consequential. Here are some action ideas to get you started:
- Decide to make a love of reading your most important educational goal for your children. Children who love to read will excel at whatever they do.
- Show your children you value reading by letting them see you do it.
- Have a wide variety of books on hand, as well as newspapers, comics, magazines, etc. Build a home library for you and your children.
- Find books that your children like- an interest in the subject is the first step to pleasure in reading.
- Spend more on books than you do on Disney movies
Reading is wonderful because it introduces your children to ideas, experiences and concepts that they might not get otherwise. It provides fuel for the imagination and the seeds of new ideas.
My children have rarely been to the doctor, except for a couple of emergency room visits. As a result, they seldom, if ever, play doctor. (Which isn’t suprising, children play what they see, their mimickers).
We received a shipment of books from UPS two days ago (always exciting!) and in it was Daisy the Doctor from the Jobs People Do Series at Usborne. My husband read it to them last night as the went to bed. It’s a simple story about Daisy Flowers and her day as a doctor.
The result? Today I heard the children walking around gathering items- “This can be to listen to the heart. This will be for our x-ray. Mom, we’re being doctors.”
This is one example of the power of reading. It introduces children to new ideas, experiences, and realities about the world. It expands their mind, literally, helping them to grow and develop, and as Oliver Wendall Holmes once said:
A mind, once stretched by a new idea, never returns to it’s original dimensions
Reading is a powerful way to stretch minds and expand realities- the purpose of education.
And what about imagination? Albert Einstein once said that “Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.”
Imagination is what drives invention, creation and progress. Without dreamers with imagination we might still be driving horse drawn carriages and sending letters by mail. Our children need to be dreamers and doers.
Let them recieve as many ideas in their mind as possible. Introduce them to a wide array of concepts, thoughts and notions. Then their imagination will run wild with the endless conceivable combinations and possibilities. They will be the ones who create an even better future.
Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.
So let’s introduce our children to the world they live in through live experiences and through reading about the experiences of others, and then let’s let them dream and imagine an even better world.
A lobster, when left high and dry among the rocks, has not instinct nor energy enough to work his way back to the sea, but waits for the sea to come to him. If it does not come, he remains where he is and dies, although the slightest effort would enable him to reach the waves, which are perhaps a few hundred yards from him.
The world is full of human lobsters: Stranded on the rocks of indecision and procrastination, who, instead of putting forth their own energies, are waiting for some grand billow of good fortune to set them afloat.
-Orison Swett Marden
Parenting is arguably the most difficult job in the world. It taxes your mental, emotional and physical energies beyond previous boundaries. Yet, in spite of all the hardships, we adore our children and want the best for them.
We want the best, but sometimes wanting and giving are two different things. We want our children to do well in school. We want to be involved in their education. We want them to develop a love of learning and develop into successful, influential, educated human beings.
We want all those things, but too often we feel like the lobster, high and dry on the emotional rocks of ‘life’, weary and beaten, lacking the drive and the energy to drag ourselves to the sea of idealism. So we remain where we are, waiting and hoping that the sea of opportunity will come to us, and carry our children high upon the grand billows of good fortune and set them afloat to success.
It’s time to stop being a lobster. I don’t need to tell you that if you don’t take responsibility for your children’s education, no one else will. You send your children to school to get educated, but that doesn’t exonerate you from the outcome. The only way to ensure your child’s success is by taking an active role in their learning.
So how can you do it? It’s simple.
- Begin by getting off the rocks of indecision and procrastination and put forth your own energies. Do something, TODAY. And then make a habit of doing something everyday. Buy a book, read with a child, start reading your own book and set the example.
- Model lifelong learning. Let your children see you learning something everyday, even if you’re not enrolled in ‘school’ or a course. You’re responsible for your education, in or out of school, so let your children see that.
- Provide easy access to reading materials. If you don’t have a home library, start building one- for you and your children. You’re less likely to read if you don’t have anything to read.
- Encourage reading everyday. Provide special times, make it a reward and sometimes have treats for reading time. We make movie nights fun with blankets, popcorn and goodies, we should do similar things for reading time.
- Read with your children everyday. Let them read to you, or you read to them. It only needs to be a few minutes if that’s all you have, but it lets your children know that reading is important, and something that is done everyday.
It’s difficult in today’s culture to remember the importance of reading. Reading is like exercise for the brain. It accomplishes growth that cannot be had in any other way. It expands realities, inspires change and develops maturity and wisdom. Reading is critical to success in life, relationships, health, finances and every other area of existence.
Be the change you would see in the world! Stop being a lobster and waiting or success to come to you. Start today to guide yourself and your children on the upward path toward a love of reading and lifelong learning.
When Mother reads aloud, the past
Seems real as every day;
I hear the tramp of armies vast,
I see the spears and lances cast,
I join the thrilling fray.
Brave knights and ladies fair and proud
I meet when Mother reads aloud.
When Mother reads aloud, far lands
Seem very near and true;
I cross the desert’s gleaming sands,
Or hunt the jungle’s prowling bands,
Or sail the ocean blue.
Far heights, who peaks the cold mists shroud,
I scale, when Mother reads aloud
When Mother reads aloud, I long
For noble deeds to do-
To help the right, redress the wrong;
It seems so easy to be strong,
So simple to be true.
Oh, thick and fast the visions crowd
My eyes, when Mother reads aloud.
Source: The Children’s Book of Heroes Edited by William J. Bennett
Extensive research has proven that reading aloud to a child is the single most important factor in raising a reader. These inexpensive fifteen minutes a day are the best-kept secret in education.
If reading to children were common instead of a rarity, we’d be facing fewer academic and social problems in the nation and the world. Consider the following statistics:
- Only 37 percent of high school students score high enough on reading achievement tests to handle adequately college-level material
- 80 percent of college faculty members report that entering freshman cannot read well enough to do college work.
- An examination of college remedial classes showed a marked increase in the enrollment for reading classes, with the greatest deficiency being reading speed and comprehension
- Literacy rates in many countries is 80-90%, unfortunately these numbers are skewed- literacy being defined as the ability to write your name and read a simple sentence.
Read-Aloud.org is committed to changing the patterns of illiteracy, and redefining the definition of literacy. Our organization is not about teaching people to read, but teaching them to want to read and to do it often. Too many people, if they do learn to read, have little interest in doing it once they are out of school “What we teach children to love and desire, will always outweigh what we teach them to do.”
The benefits of having a reading world- where people are interested in reading and make it a life-long pursuit- are unmeasurable. Reading is the heart of education and learning. Every subject flows from reading.
- The more you read, the more you know
- The more you know, the smarter you grow
- The smarter you are, the better health and employment you enjoy
- The better health and employment you have, the higher socio-economic status you have
- The higher the socio-economic status of the population, the better the economy, living conditions and overall situation of their country
- The better the overall situations of each country, the better the overall condition of the world
Reading is the ultimate weapon against ignorance, poverty, despair, hate, and crime. A nation that doesn’t read much, doesn’t know very much. And a nation that doesn’t know very much is more likely to make poor choices, to exhibit prejudice and hate, to act out in violence, to live in a perpetual cycle of poverty, crime and ignorance.
It is clear then that increasing literacy (not the ability to read and write, but the desire and implementation of reading) and creating lifetime readers, is the greatest tool we have for solving the world’s problems. A world of readers is a world of big thinkers, innovators, problem solvers, peacemakers.
People who are readers are people who can start and grow businesses, get better employment, solve problems, make more money and improve as individuals.
As individuals improve, communities improve. As communities improve, nations improve. As nations improve, the world improves.
The challenge then is in creating a world population that is more interested in carrying books than in carrying guns, a population that isn’t just able to read, but wants to read and actually does it, and has access to the resources to do it (books).
How can this be accomplished?:
- Develop the habit of reading as an individual. The more you read, the better you get at it; the better you get at it, the more you like it; the more you like it, the more you do it.
- Promote a love of reading in the next generation. This is done by simply reading aloud to the children in your life for at least 15 minutes a day. Reading aloud has been proven to create a positive association with reading in the minds of children, thus creating a life long desire to read.
- Help provide the necessary resources (books) to those who don’t have access to them. Many impoverished people do not have the money to buy books or access to public libraries. Read-Aloud.org is committed to getting the best books into the hands of the poorest people, those who need them the most.
Take these simple steps towards making world changes. Read every day, and read to your children everyday.
“If a nation (world) expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.” Thomas Jefferson
Between the ages of four and seven, many children begin to recognize words on a page. Reading aloud can help demystify the reading process. By reading stories that are on their interest level, but beyond their reading level, you can stretch your young readers’ understanding, and motivate them to improve their skills.
No method better prepares children for that moment when “reading” clicks. Reading to children effectively builds and reinforces vocabulary as well. The relationship between the printed word, the spoken word, and the meaning of words moves from the abstract to the concrete. Reading aloud contextualizes words that are often taught in isolated instances.
Even if a book is beyond your child’s reading level, it’s not beyond their listening level, and they are bound to be introduced to a plethora of new words. Hearing the words, following the storyline, and creating a whole picture allows the child to “place” the words, and become accustomed to using complete sentences.
Children who are read to grow to love books. They remember the stories that made them laugh or cry. They remember sharing stories with people they love, ad they anticipate with joy the time when they will be able to read for themselves.
Many people consider their early experiences of bedtime storytelling to be the most cherished and valuable memories of their lives. The peacefulness, the reassurance of a parent’s voice, the escape into new and exciting worlds of adventure, the drama of a story unfolding in real time, combine to form indelible memories and mold children into book-lovers.
There is no more important activity for preparing your child to succeed as a reader than reading aloud together. It is an almost organic process, stimulating their imaginations and expanding their understanding of the world. Children learn to love the sound of language even before they notice the existence of printed words on a page.
There is a learning chain that occurs: you read to your children, they develop a love of stories, they want totread on their own, they practice reading, and finally they red for their own information and pleasure.
Reading aloud to children helps stimulate an interest in reading and language as it helps develop listening skills and prepares children to understand the written word.
And it is not an activity limited to children who cannot yet read. You can make this all-important time together enjoyable for children of all ages. The togetherness and affection that develop during read-aloud sessions should not cease because a child knows ho to read on his or her own.