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The Informed Parent

Get Ready—Get Set—Go Read

by Carolyn Warnemuende, M.S.
Published on Jul. 02, 2007
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Ask a child if she likes to read and expect a strong response. Rarely does she say “It’s okay.” Usually she will either become animated and tell you how much she enjoys it or look down pensively and say, “I can’t read very good.” Whether or not children read well, they know how important it is.

A decade ago, then president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Dr. Robert E. Hannemann stated, “I can tell you that pediatricians are acutely aware of the role reading plays in infant brain and child development. We strongly recommend daily reading to children from six months of age.” He went on to say the Academy recommends that “pediatricians prescribe reading activities along with other instructions given to parents at the time of well-child visits.” Today, many pediatricians do just that.

In 1999, Get Caught Reading was launched with the goal of reminding people of all ages about the joys of reading. This was a nationwide literacy campaign sponsored by the Association of American Publishers. The campaign grew rapidly and is now promoted throughout the year. Annually May is designated as “Get Caught Reading Month.”

Get Caught Reading is supported by hundreds of celebrities, including actors and sports figures. First Lady Laura Bush and over 200 members of Congress have joined the campaign. Clearly, the nation is concerned about literacy.

The current fact sheet on www.getcaughtreading.org lists the following facts about literacy in America.

  • Forty-four million adults in the U.S. can’t read well enough to read a simple story to a child.
  • More than 20 percent of adults read at or below a fifth-grade level--far below the level needed to earn a living wage.
  • Children who have not developed some basic literacy skills by the time they enter school are three to four times more likely to drop out in later years.
  • Children in families with incomes below the poverty line are less likely to be read aloud to everyday than are children in families with incomes at or above the poverty line. 
  • So strong is the link between literacy and being a useful member of society that some states use grade-level reading statistics as a factor in projecting future prison construction.
  • Since 1983, more than 10 million Americans have reached the 12th grade without having learned to read at a basic level. In the same period, more than six million Americans dropped out of high school altogether.

So what are parents, teachers, librarians, and caregivers to do? How can they interest children, adolescents, and non-reading adults in learning to read? Here are a few things that you can do in the home to peak interest in reading.

  • Be a reader yourself.
  • Visit the library and bookstores as a family.
  • Recognize your children’s interests, and help them find books and magazines on the subject.
  • Take toddlers and young children to story hour.
  • Enroll school-age children in summer reading programs at the local library.
  • Play board games with children that require simple reading.
  • Read to your children.
  • Have your children read to you.
  • Set up a reading nook in your home.
  • Subscribe to a newspaper and at least one magazine.
  • Visit websites such as www.getcaughtreading.org that have interesting and fun materials you can download.
  • Turn off the television.

It is not necessary to spend money on reading materials. Although, having books, at least one subscription magazine, and a newspaper in the home is optimal. Except in the smallest of communities, libraries are stocked with a variety of books for all levels and interests of readers. Most subscribe to more than one newspaper and a number of magazines and journals. Elementary and high schools have libraries that carry high-interest books as well as research materials for students to check out. Research materials may need to stay on the school campus while most books can be taken home.

Non-reading adults can attend adult literacy programs offered in most communities at little or no cost. Hours for these programs are usually designed to meet the needs of the clients.

Encourage your children to read by talking to them about the joys and advantages it brings. Provide a positive reading environment at home and model reading behavior yourself. Teachers and librarians can help you and your youngsters find motivating materials at the appropriate level that will increase reading practice.

For more ideas about assisting children to read, look for the articles “Reading with Children” and “Ten Tips for Reading Success” in The Informed Parent archives.




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