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Happy New Year to the Oak Grove family!

The topic for today is encouraging reading. Reading is a fundamental skill that all children must master to be successful in school and in life. Parents and teachers are all aware of the importance of reading to their children and much research has been devoted to learning about how children acquire reading skills and how to encourage and help develop those skills. About 60% of children learn to read without any specific program or instructional strategy at school, but about 40% will need a little additional help or support. Here is a quick summary of what we know, and some specific things that we as parents and educators can do.

The foundation of reading is language development. And by the time a baby is born, the child has heard the sounds of specific languages and has already developed a preference for certain languages. A child whose mother speaks English will first turn to English speakers at birth, and a child whose mother speaks Spanish will turn to the Spanish speaker. Talk to your child right from the beginning, and expose your child to as many vocabulary words as possible. Look directly at your infant, smile, talk, and show delight when sounds are made. Read out loud even to infants. Research has shown that the sheer volume of language that a child is exposed to is a very good predictor for later language development.

As your child grows and develops language, expand on what they say. If your child says “ball” and points to a ball, you will say “You want the ball?” Dog? “Oh, yes, I see a dog, too!” Continue to read stories, and make sure that your child sees you read. Children love to model parent behavior and your child needs to see that reading is important to you. Keep newspapers and print books around the house. This is having what is called a print rich environment.

Letter recognition and sounds begins early, as young as two years of age for some children. Magnetic letters on the fridge, matching games, tracing, and books that emphasize letters are the beginning. Keep reading to your child. Story time is usually one of the favorite times of the day for a child. Use a dramatic voice, puppets, and other props. Read a favorite story over and over. This allows a child to learn to predict what will happen in a story.

Go to the library. Give books as gifts. Encourage a special reading place for your child. Go to bookstores and see what your child gravitates to for ideas. As your child gets older, discuss what they are reading. Encourage them to make up stories which you can write out for them, and put the words in a book form.

Instead of having electronic games with an iPad or iPhone consider downloading stories. Having the audio along with print will help a child associate what is heard with what is seen. A child can go back repeat the story to help learn the words and the language. Have your child “read” to you or to the family dog or cat. Animals are great learning companions. Often children will act as “teachers” to their pet or to a younger sibling which can serve as a way to practice skills.

These are just some suggestions. Share ideas with other parents, your child’s teachers, and others in the community. Reading is truly a window on the world of ideas and hopefully your child will become a skilled and avid reader!

Sherry Jordan

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