There’s real science behind reading to your kids, new research says

Even new parents know how valuable reading to their children can be— pediatricians and education officials recommend it be a regular habit in every family household. Now modern medical technology is allowing scientists to see exactly how reading can benefit brain development.

The study, from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, is the first to use functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to prove reading exposure prior to kindergarten has a measurable impact on how a child’s brain processes stories. There is no previous direct evidence of reading’s effects on the brain.

The study was conducted with 19 children between the ages of 3 and 5 years old, whose guardians completed surveys designed to measure cognitive stimulation at home. Included in the survey were questions about parent-child reading, access to books, reading frequency and book variety, parent-child interaction, and teaching of specific skills like counting or shapes. Thirty-seven percent of the participants were from low-income households.

The children’s brain activity was measured while listening to a story on headphones during an fMRI. There was no visual stimulus or sedative involved.

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How to Get Kids to Read Independently

The Scholastic Kids & Family Reading ReportTM: Fifth Edition is out and offers a snapshot of where young people are when it comes to reading independently.

Here are some of the findings of a nationally representative survey conducted last fall by Scholastic in conjunction with YouGov. Some of the results are surprising, including the fact that kids prefer to read books in print.

Following the findings is an analysis of what they mean for parents and teachers:

The State of Kids & Reading

  • Half of all children ages 6–17 (51%) are currently reading a book for fun and another one in five (20%) just finished one.
  • Both parents of children ages 6–17 (71%) and kids (54%) rank strong reading skills as the most important skill a child should have. Yet while 86% of parents say reading books for fun is extremely or very important, only 46% of kids say the same.
  • Three-quarters of parents with children ages 6–17 (75%) agree “I wish my child would read more books for fun,” and 71% agree “I wish my child would do more things that did not involve screen time.

Spotlight: What Makes Frequent Readers

  • Frequent readers, defined as children who read books for fun 5–7 days a week, differ substantially in a number of ways from infrequent readers—those who read books for fun less than one day a week. For instance, 97% of frequent readers ages 6–17 say they are currently reading a book for fun or have just finished one, while 75% of infrequent readers say they haven’t read a book for fun in a while.
  • Children ages 6–11 who are frequent readers read an average of 43.4 books per year, whereas infrequent readers in this age group read only 21.1 books annually. An even more profound difference occurs among children ages 12–17, with frequent readers reading 39.6 books annually and infrequent readers reading only 4.7 books per year.

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Tips for Reading Aloud with your Kids Every Day

World Read Aloud Day is Wednesday  – and there is reason to celebrate! According to  Scholastic’s “Kids & Family Reading Report,” 83% of kids ages 6 to 17 say they love or loved being read aloud to. The report found some important findings that parents should know….

KEY FINDINGS:

  • Parents STOP reading to their kids as they get older and can read independently…BUT 50% of kids (ages 6-11) wish their parents kept reading aloud to them.
  • The top reason? Kids say “it is a special time with my parents.”

With all that’s on our plate –  homework, tests, extra-curricular activities, online safety, family and work obligations, we need to keep it fun.  Kids love being read-aloud to – they see it as both entertainment and bonding time with parents. No matter what, read-alouds with kids should be fun. How do we make read-alouds fun?

Here are some good tips for making reading aloud an ongoing ritual and ways to enhance the experience.

These first tips come from Pam Allyn, founder of LitWorld.org and World Read Aloud Day.

Create alternative times of the day to read aloud. Reading right before bed is cozy and wonderful but for many families the timing doesn’t make sense. Bring a read aloud to the breakfast or dinner table, or on Saturday morning before the day gets busy.

Use technology to enhance the read aloud feeling. Take advantage of free video chat apps and services to read aloud regularly with friends and family who are far away. Make storytelling central to your long distance check-ins to create joyful memories and build a family literacy culture all at once as you learn about each other as readers.

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Study Finds Reading to Children of All Ages Grooms Them to Read More on Their Own

Cue the hand-wringing about digital distraction: Fewer children are reading books frequently for fun, according to a new report released Thursday by Scholastic, the children’s book publisher.

In a 2014 survey of just over 1,000 children ages 6 to 17, only 31 percent said they read a book for fun almost daily, down from 37 percent four years ago.

There were some consistent patterns among the heavier readers: For the younger children — ages 6 to 11 — being read aloud to regularly and having restricted online time were correlated with frequent reading; for the older children — ages 12 to 17 — one of the largest predictors was whether they had time to read on their own during the school day.

The finding about reading aloud to children long after toddlerhood may come as a surprise to some parents who read books to children at bedtime when they were very young but then tapered off. Last summer, the American Academy of Pediatrics announced a new policy recommending that all parents read to their children from birth.

Read the full article here.

Common Core Reading: ‘The New Colossus’

The Common Core State Standards are changing what many kids read in school. They’re standards, sure — not curriculum. Teachers and districts still have great latitude when it comes to the “how” of reading instruction, but…

The Core standards explicitly require students to read “complex” material, and the fact is, many kids simply weren’t doing that before the Core. What were they doing?

Teachers in Washoe County Schools (in and around Reno, Nev.) — and many districts nationwide — once used what they call a “skills and strategies” approach to teach reading. It was particularly common among poor schools where lots of kids struggled.

The idea was this: To learn how to be a good reader, kids needed to learn the skills and strategies that good readers use. Those include knowing how to find the main idea of a text, identifying key details, being able to draw conclusions, etc.

Teachers in Reno would begin each lesson by telling students the skill they’d be learning that day, says Cathy Schmidt, who taught elementary school.

This is the Part 1 in a 4-part series on reading in the Common-Core era. Read the full article here.