One of the things I always have believed is that Texas must improve education to have a workforce that is ready to meet our future needs. It is critical for our state to produce more college and career-ready students, something we are not doing now. While we must improve our schools to achieve that, there is something each and every one of us as parents and grandparents can do to ensure future success for our children.
We all know that a child’s first teacher is their parents, their first school is their parents’ house and that reading is the gateway to all learning.
We now know that exposing a child to reading from birth is critical for that child’s future success in school and in life. According to the national campaign Read Aloud 15 Minutes, reading aloud to a child every day for 15 minutes from birth will change the face of education in this country.
Research shows that reading aloud is the single most important thing a parent can do to help their child prepare for a life of learning. Currently, more than one in three children nationally arrive to kindergarten without those lifetime learning skills. It is clear that changing that statistic could indeed change the face of education.
You would think this was already happening; we all remember reading to our kids at bedtime. But only 48 percent of children are read to every day — and only 15 percent of parents read to their children from birth.
Reading also brings you and your children closer together. Reading to your newborn helps cement an emotional connection. It becomes part of their routine. As they grow it helps them develop language skills and learn how to speak. It is preparing them to put sounds together for the first time to say their first words.
As a child keeps growing, continuing to read to them for at least 15 minutes a day will allow them to develop a lifelong love of reading. This is critical, because reading is the most important tool they will use for the rest of their education and adult life.
Reading for at least 15 minutes a day with your child also improves the chances that your child will stay on or above grade level. If a child is not reading on grade level by the end of the first grade, there is an 88-percent chance they will still be below grade level by the fourth grade.
As you can see, if a child falls behind early, it is very difficult for that child to catch up. Reading aloud to your child for 15 minutes a day is a very small investment that pays extremely high dividends.
Reading aloud for 15 minutes every day from birth also brings dividends in other areas of education, not just reading level and language skills. If a child reads well, it makes him or her ready to learn in all areas of education. They will find education in general less-challenging and will be able to keep up in all areas of education easier than a child who is struggling with reading.
You may question whether 15 minutes really long enough to help. Think of it this way: If you read for 15 minutes every day to your child from birth to age five, that works out to 27,375 minutes. Not only does that mean your child has been exposed to reading for all that time, it means that your child has gotten to spend all that time with you, their parent. That may be the most important benefit of all — for both of you.
For more information on this initiative please visit readaloud.org.
Hammond is CEO of Bill Hammond and Associates. He is former president of the Texas Association of Business.