When my grandson Woody comes to visit, a favorite thing to do is curl up on the couch together with a good storybook. For instance, on his next visit, I look forward to introducing him to Busy Day, Busy People. Like most two-and-a-half year olds, Woody loves exploring his world, and learning about that world through books. I know that he will enjoy the pictures of the construction workers, digging dirt and pouring cement. And I know even more deeply what a joy it is to help him discover the world.
Even on a "Busy Day" for "Busy People," reading is a wonderful way to expand children's worlds and to bond children and caregivers, and one that can start at birth. It also is a crucial way to help children gain the language and literacy skills needed for a good start in school.
The effects of early reading ability are far-reaching. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, "Reading proficiency by third grade is the most significant predictor of high school graduation and career success, yet two-thirds of U.S. third-graders lack competent reading skills."
To help your child develop these important skills, make reading a daily activity, starting on day one.
Reading at Every Age
Here are a few strategies to engage your child and promote reading every day:
- For infants, develop early language skills by repeating babies' babbles and coos and smiling back, showing that you hear their sounds. Also talk to babies with words, pausing to give them an opportunity to learn about the structure of conversations. Board books and cloth books are made to withstand babies' touching and chewing; let them explore.
Reading frequently with children also is a good way to notice early whether they are having worrisome difficulties, so you can discuss concerns with their teachers and request additional help if needed.
When Reading is a Struggle
Learning to read is a process that, for many people, doesn't come easy.
At the National Institutes of Health, we are supporting research to better understand the causes of reading problems and to intervene more quickly and effectively so problems don't compound. For example:
- Researchers are peeking into the brain's inner-workings, examining brain waves and brain scans to find ways to predict which children may have trouble learning to read before they get to school. Once identified, the children may be fast-tracked to interventions designed to help them overcome their reading difficulties.
We also are supporting research to explore how reading disorders overlap with other disabilities, such as math or writing disabilities or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). And, for non-native English speakers, we want to disentangle when learning delays are due to disabilities or simply to challenges of learning a second language.
Ultimately, our hope is for all children to have the chance to achieve their full potential for healthy and productive lives. Early learning is a key part of that. And just like the construction crew in Woody's next book, reading builds a strong foundation.
For more resources on reading and reading disorders, visit the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development website.