Reading To Our Kids

The Read Aloud Handbook offers some interesting insight into reading with your children. Reading not only helps our children learn about their world, but it also helps parents bond with their children.  Reading even five to ten minutes a night helps children increase their own reading skills, and likelihood of success in the future.

Are you suggesting this reading stuff is the job of the parent?
I thought it was the school’s job.

This brings us to the “sponge factor,” exemplified by a young lady named Bianca Cotton, whom I met in 2002 on the morning my grandson Tyler began kindergarten. Families were invited in for the first hour to help break the ice, and I was snapping some pictures of Tyler and a new friend when I became aware of an extended conversation going on behind me in the little housekeeping section of the kindergarten.

Turning around, I found Bianca cooking up a make-believe meal on a make-believe stove while carrying on a make-believe conversation on a make-believe cordless phone. And, as you can see in the photo I snapped, she had all the body language down for talking on the phone and cooking at the same time.

                                               ekindergartner pretend cooking and pretend talking on phoneekindergartner pretend cooking and pretend talking on phoneekindergartner pretend cooking and pretend talking on phone

Every child, kindergartner or otherwise, is a little “sponge,” soaking up the behavior of the people around them. If Bianca had never seen an adult talking on the phone while cooking, she’d never think to grab a phone while “cooking” her first kindergarten meal.

Since the cost of lengthening the school day is prohibitive, the best option is tapping the 7,800 hours at home.
If Bianca isn’t proof enough for you, consider this: Since 1956, one select group above all others—newspapers networks, or news agencies—has the best record for predicting the outcomes in presidential elections. (If there were a blogger out there with those credentials, the networks would beating a path to his or her door.) Every four years for a half century, a quarter million children vote in the Weekly Reader presidential poll and in thirteen of the fourteen campaigns they’ve been absolutely correct. Like little sponges, they sat in their parents’ living rooms, kitchens, and cars, soaking up parental values, and then squeezed them onto a Weekly Reader ballot.

It comes down to simple arithmetic: the child spends 900 hours a year in school and 7,800 hours outside school. Which teacher has the bigger influence? Where is more time available for change? The sponge factor and those two numbers — 900 and 7,800 — will appear over and over in this book.

Jay Mathews, the Washington Post’s long-time education writer, looked back on all the student achievement stories he’d done in twenty-two years and observed: “I cannot think of a single instance in which the improvement in achievement was not tied, at least in part, to an increase in the amount of time students had to learn.” I’ve been saying the same thing for as many years. You either extend the school day (as have the successful KIPP Academy charters) or you tap into the 7,800 hours at home. Since the cost of lengthening the school day would be prohibitive in the neediest places, the most realistic option is tapping the 7,800 hours at home.

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