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Get Carried Away with Reading

By Francie Alexander

As parents and children gear up for Back-to-School, the single most important skill that parents can instill in their child is the love of reading. Research shows that a child who reads a book for just 20 minutes a day, performs better in school. Parents are their child’s first teacher and can help their child succeed in school!

Scholastic, the company that publishes such blockbuster hits as Harry Potter, Captain Underpants, and Clifford the Big Red Dog is committed to helping every child learn to read, and love to read – and we invite you and your readers to “Get Carried Away with Reading.” To help inform ALL parents about the importance of reading, Scholastic’s reading experts have complied an easy-to-follow guide to the ages and stages of reading development, offering tips and advice for raising a reader, as well as great new books for 2004, that kids will love to read.

The Ages and Stages of Reading

AGES 0-3 PHONEMIC AWARENESS

At this age…. The brain is programmed to learn from the day we are born. As an infant’s first teachers, parents and caregivers play a critical role in exposing even the youngest children to the sights and sounds of reading. Singing, speaking and reading to children at this stage helps to prepare them for formal schooling.

Did you know? Rhyming, singing, making sounds and reading simple books helps your infant and toddler develop PHONEMIC AWARENESS (knowledge of the sounds that letters make). Helping children build a solid vocabulary and familiarity with letters and sounds will give them a heads up in school.

Parent Tip: Make time every day to read stories aloud, sing songs or rhymes, and play language games to introduce your baby to the sounds of words.

Book Tip: Choose a book with bright and familiar pictures and sturdy pages made of cardboard, plastic or washable cloth.

AGES 3-6 LETTER KNOWLEDGE
At this age…Young children have active minds that are observing and practicing using letters, sounds, and numbers, as well as noticing words in print. Parents can help build children’s LETTER KNOWLEDGE with fun activities such as teaching a child to write his or her own name.

Did you know? Children should be able to easily identify 10 letters of the alphabet, and should be exposed to all 24, before entering Kindergarten.

Parent Tip: Label your child’s books, toys and clothes to help your child identify letters and words, especially his or her name, for example: Jackie’s shoe. Join the local library, and participate in your child’s programs; choose special books to read and check out books to take home with you, as well.

Book Tip: Choose books with simple concepts like numbers, shapes or colors, as well as books that invite children to participate. Books about animals or books with children as the main characters are often appealing.

AGES 6-8 SIGHT WORDS
At this Age… Children are breaking through and learning to read, so they need to know all of their letters and multiple sounds. These all-important skills must be practiced and well honed into second grade.

Did you know? Reading does not come naturally! It is a practiced skill that needs to be fostered. Research suggests that children need to be exposed to words between 6 and 60 times before they can commit them to memory and read them fluently.

Parent Tip: Parents should help their children learn the first 50 SIGHT WORDS, the most common words in print such as: the, is, from. These words help link ideas, sentences, and ultimately stories together, and should be easily identifiable by your child so he or she can focus on more challenging words and their meanings.

Book Tip: To make beginning readers LOVE reading, allow them to choose books on any topic that interests them. It is important that children have positive experiences with books and reading at this stage, and they must have age-appropriate books that are not too hard and not too easy, so that they can be successful.

ALERT: If your child is still having difficulty reading at age 8, parents should plan to address the problem. A few suggestions:

1) Start with the teacher. Schedule a one-on-one appointment and find out if there is an underlying problem that is more serious or requires more concentrated support.

2) Work with the teacher to implement a reading improvement plan for your child.

AGES 9-12 COMPREHENSION AND VOCABULARY
At this age…Children need to be reading regularly both in school and at home. They need ongoing encouragement, and should be surrounded by a book-rich environment at home. Parents should encourage children to build COMPREHENSION and VOCABULARY by exposing them to a variety of book genres and subject areas such as science fiction, mystery and non-fiction.

Did you know? One of the factors contributing to poor reading skills is a lack of a variety in books and reading materials. It is essential that books that can spark a child’s interest are available in order that they commit the time and effort to becoming better readers.

Parent Tip: Keep reading to your children, even if they are excellent readers on their own. Expose them to more advanced reading materials like newspapers, magazines and chapter books that are beyond their reading level, but of interest to them.

Book Tip: Choose books on topics that will grab your child’s attention such as: pop stars, sports or hobbies.

AGES 13-15 READING IMPACTS TEST SCORES
At this age… Helping to keep up children’s reading momentum is a tall order, but now more than ever adolescent readers need parental support. Help children to understand that reading is key to their schooling and long-term success, as well as a being a great way to learn more about history, their world and themselves.

Did you know: The amount of reading and the types of books children read has an impact on how well students are prepared for standardized tests like the PSATs and SATs. Just as training for a marathon requires sustained practice, gaining sophisticated vocabulary and comprehension skills cannot be crammed into a few weeks before an exam. Only through frequent exposure to challenging reading material can these skills be developed.

Parent Tip: Read the same book your adolescent child is reading, and then make time to share thoughts and ideas about the story and characters together. Many classics offer wonderful opportunities to read a book and then enjoy the movie version together.

Book Tip: Although children are choosing their own reading materials at this point, it is important for parents to remember to give the gift of reading. Find stories that offer a great escape, and take your child to another place or time. Reward your children with books. Present them as special birthday and holiday gifts so that they value and treasure them as you do.

Francie Alexander is Scholastic's Chief Academic Officer and an education and reading expert.

FOR MORE READING TIPS VISIT WWW.SCHOLASTIC.COM

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