Read to children: They will thank you later
Omar Torres (left), a seventh-grader at Schweinfurt Middle School, reads to Angel Costilla (from right), Claire Flynn, and Brianna Kloeckl today for Read Across America week at the Schweinfurt schools.

SCHWEINFURT, Germany - "It takes hundreds of hours of lap time for a child to gain the pre-literacy skills necessary to learn to read early and well," said the National Children's Reading Foundation Web site about the need for parents to read to their children.

But don't let the number of hours be intimidating because those necessary reading skills can be attained through reading aloud to children for just 20 minutes a day, said the site.

National Read Across America was celebrated this week at the Schweinfurt schools with reading activities, games and observing Dr. Seuss' birthday on March 2. Throughout the celebration, teachers, staff, and administrators hoped to emphasize the importance of reading in all arenas of students' lives.

"Like other skills, reading is mastered over time, with lots of practice and with the help of another person," said the reading foundation Web site. And one of the primary helps comes from the child's parents.

"I can remember sitting on my dad's lap on Sunday mornings ... and him reading the comics to me," said Sara Maka, READ 180 teacher at Schweinfurt Middle School (SMS).

"Children learn how to talk by hearing talk, and they learn how to read by hearing reading," said LaVonne Ector, part-time reading recovery and part-time literacy coach at Schweinfurt Elementary School.

"Children learn more in the first five or six years than they are going to for the rest of their lives," she said.

Even once a child begins to read themselves, it is still important to read aloud together, she continued.

"Even middle-schoolers ... they enjoy it when we read to them," Maka said, describing the times she has read aloud to her class.

Adults reading to children encourages kids to read even when someone is not available to do it with them. Children are more likely to grow an affinity toward books and reading in general when it's done together on a regular basis.

"Even when I taught first-grade, the kids who were read to as pre-schoolers were more apt to pick up reading and look at books more often than someone who never had someone read to them or take them to the library," said Darlene Edgar, reading/literacy teacher at SMS.

Reading is not just for the sake of reading, either. It's the foundation for everything else in life, they said.

"You can't do math if you can't read. You can't get a job if you can't read the application," Edgar said.

"If they have trouble reading in school, they are going to have trouble in all their subjects. Reading really is the most important thing," Ector said.

"Good readers are usually good writers," said Darlene Spencer, language arts teacher at SMS.

Not only is reading aloud vital, but having books around the house for the skill level of your children is important. If a page has more than a couple words that are unknown to the child, frustration may set in.

"When I needed to go to the library, they took me," Spencer about her parents when she was a child. "I can remember piles of children's books when I was 5."

Frequent visits to the library and bedtime stories are only a few of the possible ways for parents to approach reading. Parents can make lists of chores for their kids to check off or a calendar of events for them to follow. Families can read recipes and cook together or kids can be sent on a scavenger hunt with written clues. There is no limit to creative ways of incorporating reading into the lives of children. Not only do these activities promote reading, they also lend to family bonding and encourage listening skills.

"Focus on them when their little. If you give them a good start when they're younger they're not going to have problems when they're older," Ector said. "The most important thing you can do to help your child to be a success is to read to them."

Page last updated Tue March 10th, 2009 at 10:01