Concerned caregivers have asked me if the products shown on infomercials really teach babies how to read. I’ve also been told by parents that their school-aged child “HATES reading!” Given that reading significantly impacts the education a child receives, it is an important topic to address.
Reading has been linked with language development, comprehension skills, ability to take the perspective of others, level of vocabulary and overall level of intelligence. The level at which someone can read effectively, will in turn determine their education potential. So, don’t we want to give our children the skills to achieve?
Products that toute being able to teach infants to read have been extremely popular, with parents uploading recordings of their children’s results to websites such as Youtube. However, there are problems behind these programs. For example, the most popular product on the market was not researched for its effect on long term literacy and academic skills. Basically, the creator has no idea if it will help a child get better grades once they enter school. Also, these programs tend to confuse language acquisition with reading. It is important to remember that reading does not necessarily mean comprehension, i.e. does a toddler really know what a ‘quadrangle’ is? Unlikely. Finally, The American Association of Pediatrics recommends that children younger than 2 years do not view television. In fact, any screen time usage, including tablet pcs and video game equipment that are used by reading programs, should be limited in toddlers.
Although a 9- to 12-month-old may chew on a book or bang it on the floor, parents should still encourage children by including books in their repertoire of play objects – Dr. Jill Fussell, assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences
A child’s reading and comprehension development occurs across time, with milestones that happen by different ages, much like overall development. In fact, before a child is even born, they may begin to learn reading skills. Parents who read aloud to pregnant bellies are doing wonders for their children. The unborn child is can hear and will learn the singy-songy voice used in reading. Researchers have also found that newborns show preference for stories they heard in the womb versus stories they hadn’t.
Ensure your child gets on an age-appropriate course to reading success:
The home, followed by school environment, largely determines a child’s likelihood and willingness to read. Parents play an important role. Toddlers whose parents read to them showed greater language and literacy skills when they entered school. Researchers have also found that parents who read are more likely to have children who read; in other words, reading is another area in which children learn by example. Parents who report that their child hates to read, may have themself hated to read. Or, they may have significant reading difficulties (seen in 1 out of 5 adults). For these parents, addressing their own reading challenges, through such programs as Adult Literacy, may in turn help their child’s reading development.
Parents can also train their children to love reading by showing them how to love books. Having books in bedrooms or on display in the home, as well as teaching a child to respect and not destroy books goes a long way.
The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests ways in which parents can foster reading in children:
- Set aside time every day to read together. Many children like to have stories read to them at bedtime. This is a great way to wind down after a busy day and get ready for sleep.
- Read books that your child enjoys. After a while, your child may learn the words to her favorite book. When this happens, let your child complete the sentences or take turns reciting the words.
- Do not drill your child on letters, numbers, colors, shapes, or words. Instead, make a game out of it and find ways to encourage your child’s curiosity and interests.
- Run your finger under the words as you read to show your child that the print carries the story.
- Use funny voices and animal noises. Do not be afraid to ham it up! This will help your child get excited about the story.
- Stop to look at the pictures; ask your child to name things she sees in the pictures. Talk about how the pictures relate to the story.
For more on early literacy, Read More below.