Teaching Tuesday: Read To Your Kid Every Day

You already know you're supposed to read to your kid every day. Reading aloud may be the most important element in future reading success.  And if you don't believe me, here's a college student's explanations, complete with a bibliography of studies. You can look here too. Or you can trust my years teaching in a tough neighborhood; the kids who had someone read to them regularly did better in school, regardless of the other issues in their lives.

It's ideal to start from infancy. But even if your kid is two or six or twelve, reading aloud is still important. And helpful. Turn it into something non-negotiable, like bathing or sitting in a car seat. Here are my (mental) replies to excuses I've heard over the years.

Excuse: We don't have time every night!

Reply:  Then don't try to read an entire book every night. Try a Shel Silverstein poem or two. Do a page a night. Then find another time when you can read a bit more together. If you've got an older kid, make him or her read to the younger one while you make breakfast or dinner.

Excuse: My kid won't sit still while I read!

I was reading when this photo of Lovebug was taken.

Reply: Lovebug probably didn't sit still for an entire book until he was 3 years old. But I kept reading to him anyway, I'd make him sit on my lap for a few minutes and then I'd keep reading while he moved around his room. Now he loves to listen to books as well as to read them himself. Some kids aren't ready - some may never be ready - to sit still. That's okay. They can still hear you. They'll look at the pictures when they're very interested. Keep trying.

Excuse: My kid just doesn't like it when I read to him/her!

Reply: What are you reading? Are you letting your kid pick the book? Try that, even if it means you read the same book with no educational value over and over and over. Also, do you enjoy reading to your kid? Are you enthusiastic? Or can your kid tell you'd really rather be watching The Walking Dead?

Excuse: I don't have money to buy children's books!

Reply: Garage sales and library sales have books for like twenty-five cents a book. If even that's too much, join your local library. Libraries are still free. Ask people with older kids if they have books they could give or lend to your little one. Do people ever buy your child gifts? Ask them to buy books. Do you ever buy your child gifts? Buy some books instead of a toy that will entertain him for 5 minutes.

Excuse: I want my kid to learn English, but I don't read it very well.

Reply: If you read better in Spanish or Russian or Urdu, read in that language. There are still lots of benefits and your kid has a great shot at being totally bilingual. If you don't read well in any language, choose picture books with simple text, or practice reading the book ahead of time. If you've got a kiddo under the age of six, chances are s/he'll want you to read the same book over and over anyway. Here are some books that are engaging, as well as pretty easy to read:

Excuse: Is this really helping my kid? It sure doesn't seem like it.

Reply: Look, if you read the same book to your kid every night, in a monotone, and never discuss what happened in the story or whether they liked it, your kid will still learn language patterns and the concepts of print, like reading left to right and front to back. Would it be more helpful if you tried different books, discussed what new words meant, used expression and talked about the book afterwards? Of course. But reading aloud is a cumulative thing, it's not going to be as obvious that your child has learned something from one day to the next.

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