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July 18, 2024

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Read to Kids & Close the “Million Word Gap”

It doesn't take a brain surgeon to realize that reading is the most important educational skill a child can possess. Here are some tips to help raise a reader.

Did you know that there's a "million word gap" for children who aren't read to at home? The new study reveals, "Young children whose parents read them five books a day enter kindergarten having heard about 1.4 million more words than kids who were never read to."

"Kids who hear more vocabulary words are going to be better prepared to see those words in print when they enter school," says Jessica Logan, lead author of the study and assistant professor of educational studies at The Ohio State University. "They are likely to pick up reading skills more quickly and easily."

Start Reading Early

At first, babies may be more interested in putting books in their mouths or hitting or tearing them — which is why board books were invented. But stick with it and overtime your baby will love reading together!

Learning to be a reader doesn't start in kindergarten — it can start before your baby is born. When friends and family ask what you need, ask them for books, including a reliable guide to children's literature that you can use to gain insight throughout your baby's childhood. Some to consider are librarian Kathleen Odean's volumes, Great Books For Boys; Great Books For Girls; and Great Books About Things Kids Love, all published by Ballantine.

Another classic guide for families nurturing readers is The Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease (Penguin/Putnam), which not only lists titles for every age group and every occasion, but gives good advice on how to emphasize reading within the family.

Bet Lots of Board Books

Reading with babies can be a challenge, so you have to stick with it at first. They may be more interested in putting books in their mouths or hitting or tearing them — which is why board books were invented. Sturdy cardboard pages can withstand a lot of wear and tear. Look for titles that emphasize simple concepts like colors, shapes or animals. Little ones especially enjoy seeing photographs of other babies.

Baby Faces (Dorling Kindersley) shows babies of all sorts looking happy or sad, crying or laughing. Get Ready Baby by Margaret Miller (LittleSimon) shows babies ready for any kind of day that comes their way. You are well on your way to raising a reader if you keep this up daily!

Board books usually have little or no text, freeing you to improvise. As you read, you can talk with your baby about what's happening in the pictures, naming colors and shapes and mimicking expressions on the babies' faces. Show your baby how to turn the pages and do it together. Use words like gentle, soft and slow to describe turning pages. It doesn't matter if your board book reading sessions last only a minute or so.

Integrating reading with singing and finger plays can help reading preparation by exposing your baby to words and sounds.

Go to the Library Often

Sign your child up for a library card and use it regularly. All libraries have rich collections of books for children of all ages, including babies. Ask library staff for suggestions and advice. Make story hours a part of your regular routine. Our local libraries host special story times for very young children where things are kept short, sweet and busy — perfect for babies and toddlers!  

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