What was your favourite childhood book? Chances are, you can come up with a title right away. That’s because books create powerful memories of stories and characters that inspire kids’ imaginations and will be treasured for a lifetime.
Unfortunately, some children grow up with limited access to books, meaning they’re unable to create those memories so many people take for granted. A lack of books in the home is also linked to lower reading scores and less success in school, according to research by the Family and Community Engagement Research Compendium. Even more concerning, an Annie E. Casey Foundation report found students who can’t read proficiently by third grade are four times more likely to leave school without a diploma than proficient readers.
Society as a whole pays a high price for low literacy. It costs the US at least $225 billion each year in non-productivity in the workforce, crime and loss of tax revenue due to unemployment, according to the National Council for Adult Learning.
Here’s the good news: this problem does have a solution. Having books in the home has been proven to improve children’s reading performance, cause them to read more frequently and for longer lengths of time, and improve overall attitudes toward learning.
It’s clear that promoting literacy in your home and in your community are worthwhile investments of your time and money. Wondering where to start?
Build reading into the routine: When the kids are small, it’s easy for many parents to create the nightly ritual of story time. Don’t stop just because they’ve started school and are reading on their own. Commit to sitting down every night to read together. Or, make reading into an event the whole family can enjoy by reading a chapter book out loud. When the kids see you reading books too, you set a great example.
Ask questions: Asking children questions while you read together helps them develop critical thinking skills. For example, you might ask, “How is the family in this book like our family?” or “The girl in this book likes to swim. What do you like to do?”
Give books as gifts: The next time you celebrate a holiday or child’s birthday, consider giving the gift of a book — especially a title or two that you loved growing up. Be sure to make time to read at least one of them together. It’s a great way to bond.
Share, share, share: One way to spread literacy is to help make books more available in your community. Every year or so, go through your book collection with the kids and decide which titles should be given a new home. They can be donated to schools and public libraries, or given to other groups that make books available for free or little cost to young readers. Even better, when you buy a book, purchase a second copy to donate or give away.