The importance of reading - and being read to

Opinion

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By China Hill

Columnist

A new study has linked low reading scores with teenage pregnancy. A study published in the journal Contraception found that after tracking over 12,000 seventh-grade girls for six years, two-thirds of girls with below-average reading scores were more likely to become pregnant than girls with average reading scores. African-American girls with relatively low reading scores had an even greater risk of becoming pregnant. This data reinforces the importance of education while specifically targeting an area of great concern for both teachers and parents — reading.

Taught and/or reinforced at every grade level, reading is one of the most significant academic and life skills, and parents should begin to teach their children before they start school. It gives them an advantage — or head start — so when they begin formal reading instruction, they can easily tackle texts in primary grades and then successfully build on their reading skills as they advance through elementary and high school.

Without these skills, children can become frustrated with school, where reading is required for nearly every subject. And frustration with school — without the necessary support — can lead to students failing, dropping out, and/or contributing to society's problems.

Reading is fundamental. So make a push this year to increase the assistance you provide to your children. You'll not only push children to become better readers, but also push them past teen pregnancy, push them past prison, and push them out of poverty. Below are just a few, simple suggestions to help make that push.

Let them see you reading

As soon as your child is able to sit up and hold a book in their hands, teach them the act of reading. Read to them in order to show them how it is done. Have them watch you turn pages as you read. As they start to mimic other behaviors they see, such as clapping their hands or talking into a cell phone, they should also start to mimic what you do with a book. This is a valuable pre-reading skill.

As your children get older, read to them in order to model basic reading skills. Reading aloud to them will allow them to pick up on important reading skills, such as the ability to pronounce words, interpret punctuation, and read with expression. Continue to model the act of reading until your child is reading well on his or her own, and then just do it for fun.

 

Increase their exposure to books

 

Your child doesn't love books? Expose them to as many types as possible (science fiction, historical fiction, poetry, etc.) until they do. Take them to local libraries and have them peruse the aisles of the children's and young adult section for book titles or jacket covers that fascinate them. Encourage them to use the library's online catalog to search for books using special keywords. For example, if your child is into Spider-Man, he or she can type "Spider-Man" in the search box to look up books about the superhero. Visit resale stores like Goodwill for books that your children can buy for cheap. If they have a Kindle, iPad, or other electronic device from which they can download books, have them search for certain book subjects and titles. No matter what the genre or medium, the goal is to widen the selection, and the way you do that is by exposing them to as many books as possible.

Make sure other adults can read, too

It also helps to have the other adults in your child's life read to them. According to the U.S. Department of Education, about 93 million adult Americans have basic and below basic literacy skills, which prevent them from performing moderately challenging and complex activities like summarizing lengthy pieces of written information. If someone you know and love is not able to read, ask them if they want help. Literacy Volunteers of Western Cook County offers adults with low or no reading skills in the Austin community free individualized reading instruction. Contact them at 708-848-8499 or info@lvwcc.org. The City Colleges of Chicago also provides free classes for adult students who have low reading levels. For classes on the West Side, contact Malcolm X College at 312-850-7300 or find out more by searching adult education at www.ccc.edu.

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