Making sure their child is ready for school has become a quandary for many parents. With more and more emphasis on early academics it seems that kindergarten is becoming the new first grade, and there is a wider age span in kindergarten classrooms. There can easily be an 18 month age spread in a K classroom, and social and intellectual disparities become an issue. The question becomes whether it is wiser to hold back a child and have them start a year later.
No matter when a child begins school, a child needs a firm foundation to make sure they are ready to enter school and be successful learners– and the adults in their lives can establish that base.
Reading aloud to a child changes a child’s life and is one of the activities children need to enter school ready to learn to read. The benefits of reading aloud are enormous—and often these benefits are not taken seriously enough because parents or caregivers feel that reading aloud is too simple and obvious to be that important. The time spent reading to a child is the best predictor of reading success. Children need to hear approximately 1,000 stories read aloud before they being to learn to read for themselves. A child’s desire to learn to read comes from being read to.
However, reading aloud does not automatically lead to literacy. The real link lies in the verbal interaction that occurs between an adult and a child during story reading. The skills a child needs to get ready to learn to read are first learned in conversation. Vocabulary is the lynchpin to literacy and language learned in conversation is where a child acquires the words needed to learn to read. A child who enters school with a vocabulary of 22,000 words has a distinct advantage over the child who enters school with a vocabulary of 2,000 words. Children who come to school with well-developed “finding meaning in books” skills are clearly at an advantage. Someone in the home read to the children, answered their questions, and encouraged them to read.