"Education isn’t the filling of a pail but the lighting of a fire.”
– William Butler Yeats
How many times today have you read something? No doubt you have done it without thinking about it…newspaper? street sign? text? email? All done without thinking about what you were doing: processing information, storing it and using it. We use reading unconsciously—just like we do walking—and these two skills are vital for progressing through your day. Yet, according to recent studies, and as quoted by Nicholas Kristof in his recent column of the Sunday New York Times, two-thirds of our fourth graders are not proficient in reading. Kristof says, “American children are struggling to read and are worse at it than their counterparts were in 1998.” That’s 25 years ago!
Reading is the key to our world. And a child’s success at reading is the key to understanding the world. It is within your power to help young children possess and use this key to become confident citizens of the world. Helping a child enter the world of reading and understanding may be one of the most important things you can do to help them become fully functional adults.
Opportunities to help a child learn and comprehend are all around us and in everyday life—not just in a school. Helping a child to read can be fun for all, and the entire family can join in. It’s simply helping kids to sound out words using phonics. Try the labels on items at the supermarket. Point out a word on the box, pronounce it and ask the child to repeat it. Point out street signs like “STOP” and ask the child to repeat it. Praise the child if they remember the word. You can make the game more challenging by asking the child if they remember the word later during the day.
Making words fun and understanding them can be a game that can also involve older siblings. When you return from the store, ask the older child to point out the word on the same box or container you pointed to at the store, and see if the child can remember and read it. It can be simple word like “milk” or “eggs.” Ask the older child to point out the printed word to their younger sibling and see if they both can see and say it. A small reward may be helpful to reinforce the lesson. If the younger child cannot recognize that word, just let it go and try again later. There are many opportunities during the day to help a child see and recognize words. You can make up your own games to engage a child and bring them into the wonderful world of reading.
By taking reading out of the classroom, you can show a child how important to everyday life reading can be. It may be the most important lesson about reading you can give a young child. Besides, it’s fun to play word games with your children!
"Reading may be the most important skill we can give our children. It’s the pilot light of that fire. When 2/3 of American kids are not proficient in reading, we are failing the next generation."
- Nicholas Kristof, The New York Times
written by: Patricia earle