Never stop reading to your kids

A lot of science and some magic turns kids into readers

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By Cassandra West

Parents, more often than not, are their child's first reading teacher. All those enjoyable moments reading bedtime stories and paging through picture books make up the first reading lessons as a child takes in new words and phrases and the magic of reading begins to happen.

"Human beings were never born to read," Maryanne Wolf, cognitive neuroscientist and child development expert, writes in her book "Proust and the Squid:

The Story and Science of the Reading Brain." Reading is a human invention that reflects how the brain rearranges itself to learn something new. 

Another cognitive scientist Mark Seidenberg, author of "Language at the Speed of Light" who studies the science of reading, says that how reading is taught places many children at risk of failure, discriminates against poorer kids, and discourages even those who could have become more successful readers.

Those early reading teachers, like one local parent Kate O'Keefe, know that every child comes to reading in her or his own way. Neither of her two children knew how to read before they started school, but her daughter, 9, picked it up rather easily, she says. Her son, who is 7 and still learning how to read, not as much.

SAY Connects is sponsored by the Good Heart Work Smart Foundation in partnership with Success for All Youth (SAY).

"What I've learned from that, and I think it has very little to do with the fact that he's a boy, but I just have to have a different approach with different kids when it comes to reading." 

While O'Keefe didn't have to work on sight words or practicing sounds with her daughter, those exercises have benefited her son. She found that making the reading experience fun and choosing books that "he's into" worked better for him.

O'Keefe, who also is a teacher, has some tips for parents who are introducing their children to books: "Let them read what they want to read," she says. "Follow their interests.

"Sometimes parents quit reading to their children once their children learn how to read," O'Keefe says. "I think it's good to continue reading out loud to your kid. That's how they know their vocabulary. They hear [new] words and more sophisticated language than in books they would pick up themselves."


Five Stages of Reading Development

Emerging pre-reader 

   (typically between 6 months to 6 years old)

Novice reader (typically between 6 to 7 years old)

Decoding reader (typically between 7 - 9 years old

Fluent, comprehending reader 

   (typically between 9 - 15 years old)

Expert reader (typically from 16 years and older).

Source: "Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain" by Maryanne Wolf. Harper Perennial, 2008.


SAY Connects is sponsored by the Good Heart Work Smart Foundation in partnership with Success for All Youth (SAY).   

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