According to Disney, in the UK, less than 1/3 of us read to our kids every day. Even if this number were 50% I’d be a bit shocked. Of course I can see how this comes about, and I’m not going to admonish those parents who aren’t reading to their kids every day here. We all parent in our own way and I’m not going to say that reading stories to your kids is the be-all and end-all of being a good parent, but it can be an important part of it.
I do read to my kids every night, the only times I don’t are when they’ve fallen asleep in the car after a long trip, then I just carry them up to bed but even then Logan sometimes wakes up and asks why he hasn’t had his story. I also read to them whenever they ask me to, Alexander (he’s 2) often brings me a book and jumps up on my knee expectantly. It’s normal for me because I was read to in a similar way as a kid, my parents had fun reading, getting really involved in stories and by doing so they got me involved in them too. As a result I enjoy reading a lot, learning to read was like getting the keys to thousands of new worlds full of adventure, mystery and magic and I think this is had a big part to play in the grades I got in school.
I think that an enjoyment of reading can lead to higher reading speed, getting really caught up in a story makes you read faster, and the more times you get caught up in this way the faster you’ll get, it’s like mental exercise. The thing is you’ll then read everything fast because you’ve developed your reading speed to be faster. I think that higher reading speed can be a major factor in whether a child will actually do their homework. Just think about it, if you know that your homework typically takes you about 3 hours a night why would you bother? You’ve spent all day at school, had your tea and now you’ve to spend your whole evening doing homework. It’s just not going to happen, and if it does it’s unfair on the child: we wouldn’t get right back into our work for 3 hours after tea, why should our kids? Kids need a chance to play and see their friends and, you know, be kids. If, however, you read quickly then homework could be an hour (or less) a night, which is much easier to fit in.
When I was a kid my friends consisted of fast readers and kids who just didn’t do homework. For those of us who were fast readers we managed to have social lives etc. whilst still getting our homework done and I think that it benefited us a lot. Reading well and reading fast lets kids live normal lives and still do well in school and there is little doubt that reading to children has a dramatically positive effect on a child’s literacy development, so we really help our kids out in the long-run if we sit down for 10-20 minutes a night and read them a story. Just one study (pulled from thousands that turned up on a google scholar search) which can be found here has this to say in its closing remarks:
“Findings reported in the CELLreview indicate that there is empirical support for the contention that “it is never too early to begin reading to infants and toddlers.” Age of onset of reading to very young children was associated with differences in the study participants early literacy and language development: The younger the children were read to, the better were their literacy and language skills. The sizes of effect were, however, small to medium in nearly all the analyses. The frequency of early reading onset also was related to the literacy and language outcomes, albeit not as strongly as the age of onset of reading.” (Dunst, Simkus and Hamby 2012)
However, I also thought it would be good to find out how many people genuinely struggle when reading to their kids, either due to time constraints or simply through lack of confidence. I’d love to hear about your experiences in reading to your kids and see if Disney’s findings are really an accurate representation of the population. After all 70% of us can’t really be skipping bed-time stories, surely?