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I don’t usually post on the weekends but this is how I started my Saturday, listening to this wonderful song. I didn’t want anyone to miss it.
Librarians promote summer reading programs with research and statistics that show that summer reading prevents “summer slide, ” the loss that children experience in reading and other academics if they “do nothing” during the summer.
If you want visuals to demonstrate the effects of “summer slide” year after year, this video is tremendous.
Two points to remember:
- We’re not just talking about losses in reading. This happens in all subject and learning areas.
- And this is not a promotional for summer schools. Every kid needs downtime and free play and a break from very “schooly” activities and routines. But they also need exposure to new things, and constructive, developmentally appropriate activities, and fun enrichments– things that are not very often present for children in lower income or poverty families. The video shows how these things make a difference over the years.
So support summer programs for all kids but especially those who do without so much.
Share the video!
The Millennium Cohort Study in England, following 19,000 young children, has issued a report on the connections between poverty and cognitive development. It’s one of the first studies of its kind and confirms what most of us would “guess”–but even more so. Here are several interesting findings.
- First, while any poverty will affect children negatively, persistent poverty and poverty at birth are even worse.
- The differences between children in poverty and those who are not are as large as what you would find in children from homes with college educated moms and moms with minimal education.
- Persistent poverty has a greater impact than whether parents read to their children, take them to the library, or help them with schoolwork.
- While previous studies have shown that parenting affects children’s cognitive development, this one shows that poverty affects not just the child’s cognitive development (no matter what the parent does) but also the parent’s ability to parent.
- Finally, being born into poverty has worse effects than intermittent or episodic poverty.
Focusing on test scores and even on early childhood education are less than drops in a bucket when poverty and its effects are ignored. Anyone who’s committed to improving education for children has also got to be committed to eradicating poverty–for the children’s sake. Else we are just throwing money at the problem and spinning our wheels.
Think about it,
It’s just a book. It’s just a few minutes. (Or maybe a few seconds, if you’re reading to a baby. ;-)) You’re just a (fill in the blank); you don’t know anything about teaching a child to read.
Is it really making a difference?
Absolutely! The results will not show up for 1-5 years (in other words, not until after a child is developmentally ready to learn to rad around age 6-7 and after he or she starts school). Here’s one reason, though, why you can trust that those minutes of reading aloud are making a difference:
- According to 2009 U.S. Census Bureau data, about half of children under 5 are read to seven or more times a week by a parent or family member.
- Children under age 5 whose families are living below the poverty line were more likely to be read to seven or more times a week in 2009 (45 percent) than in 1998 (37 percent).
Both those statistics are reported by Early Martin Phelan and you can read more here.
But for those of you who missed out (and you really did miss out on a stellar speech), research looking at 250 in Florida shows that–
Poverty is the biggest predictor of a child’s reading level. The higher the poverty, the lower the reading level.
Join Krashen’s Twitter feed, read his book The Power of Reading, hear him speak and you will hear him say it over and over again–It’s the poverty. Krashen’s been preaching this for years.
It’s not how early or late we start the reading instruction, it’s not how or how often children are assessed, it’s not class size, teacher resources, ethnicity–It’s the poverty.
Read more here, Poverty, Reading Scores, and Resilient Schools. It confirms what we know. It’s clear and straightforward. It’s our challenge as a society to be truthful and focus on the real problem and not be sidetracked.
Spread the word,
Many of my conversations with concerned parents are some variation of the “it’s the number of words” talk. Statistics from the new National Literacy Trust report bear this out.
Here’s a few:
- 8 out of 10 children who read ten or more books a month are above average readers.
- 77% of children who read for an hour or more at a time are above average readers.
- Only 4% of children who read for an hour or more at a time are below average readers.
Basically, the longer a child reads, the more practice they get, the more words they read, the more internal reinforcement they get from the process (because the more they read, the easier it gets, and the more fun it becomes).
Interestingly enough, text messaging words don’t seem to apply–or at least not as well as sitting down with a novel. Children who read text messages but not novels are twice as likely to be below average readers. More research here would be great. My hunch is that it’s not the same because texts come in little chunks rather than continuous streams, ie, try to read texts for over an hour without interruption. 🙂
Want to read more? Here’s the summary article and link to the research. Or read Jim Trelease’s take on it in The Read-Aloud Handbook on pages 142-147. (If you’ve never read Trelease, you’re in for a real treat!).
For a number of years now, the American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended zero TV time for children under age 2 and under 2 hours a day for older childern.
A new report now links a variety of troubles children have later in life to how much TV they watched as toddlers (yes, toddlers!). These include the expected ones like obesity, high blood pressure , and problems with language development and attention span–but it also included suprise ones like lower math achievement and higher incidence of being bullied. These effects were found years later when the children were in school. Click here to read more. And here. (And both articles share some amazing statistics.)
What’s a parent to do? Is it really that important? Dr. David Elkind offers help in sorting this out; click here.
How can one activity lead to so many difficulties so many years later? There are two huge factors at work here.
First, if a child is sitting in front of a TV or other screen, that child is not doing the things his or her body and mind was made to be doing developmentally at that time. Simple things like putting things into a box and taking them back out again, rocking a doll, watching the birds outside, playing in the sand or water, or singing, talking, and reading with a living, caring human being–these are all critical to a child’s physical, emotional, and intellectual growth.
Second, as intimated above, if a child is spending time with the TV, they are not spending time with an adult. The basis for all future relationships is established in the years between birth and age six-ish. We are socials beings, we are wired to learn about the world and life and ourselves through our relationships, and no machine can come close to fulfilling those roles.
As Elkind puts it, “…infants and young children learn best through direct interaction with caregivers, whether it is reading, talking or playing games like Itty Bitty Spider, Patty Cake and so on. Computer games (my insert: and other screens) for infants put an unnecessary barrier between child and caregiver and dilute the potency of that interaction.”
It is cliched, but they are only little once. Turn off the screens. Find other things for your baby and little one to do and explore; find other things to enjoy doing together. And not sure what to do? Ask your friendly neighborhood children’s librarian for ideas! 🙂
Once a child has learned how reading works, though, what helps them get to the next step, to the fluency level? In a nutshell, it’s all about the number of words a child reads. It really doesn’t matter what the words are about (content) or what format they are presented in (comics work just as well as chapter books). It’s the sheer number of words read that builds fluency.
So what happens when, as in South Africa, one child has three books to read in a year–and another has three a day? The probabilty of one of them effectively becoming shut off from reading for the rest of his/her life skyrockets.
There are many injustices and inequalities in life and around the world. But depriving a growing mind of books ranks at the top. It’s one reason why the Biblio Burro in Colombia and the Camel Library in Kenya and Lubuto Library in Zambia are so life changing.
Being able to read goes beyond being able to access information. The ability to read directly affects the ability to think (Story Proof, Kendall Haven).
Children must have “stuff” to read–and libraries must exist for everyone, but especially the most vulnerable, those who have nothing to read.
Check out the links. Consider a donation. And in this day of school and public library closures in this country, tell the decision makers “no.”
The March issue of Pediatrics reports simple lifestyle changes that reduce the chances of childhood obesity by as much as 40% in preschoolers.
- spending less than 2 hours a day on “screen time,”
- getting 10 or more hours a sleep a night, and
- eating with the family at least 5 nights a week.
Now, add a good book at bedtime and your children are well set to grow into their best!
Bonus? These are habits that will stand your child in good stead for life!
Jane Brody does a wonderful job in her article explaining why talking with your children is important. She covers the bases from why it is important to specific suggestions for doing it.
I really appreciated her pointing out the problems inherent in parents using cell phones and such while around their children. We really can’t do two things at one time, (at least not most of the time 🙂 ). If you are talking on the cell, you can’t be talking with your child. And the choice does matter over time. It has a direct, research confirmed impact on your child’s language development. Her article also touches on the social development aspects as well. Humans are social creatures, and those social parts of us develop through interactions with others.
The message? Talking with your child is critical. Take the time. Turn the phone and other electronics off. And enjoy! It’ll be good for you both!
In my last post about early childhood education (click here), I talked about the “two buckets”–one for children from deprived environments and one for children from “good enough” environments–and how educational needs are different for the two.
This video, Change the First Five Years and You Change Everything, beautifully illustrates the point for the “first bucket” kids, the kids who are doing without the basics and who likely will never regain what’s lost.
It’s only 4 minutes. It’s really well done. Please watch. Please pass it on.
If you’re like most of us, you’re not real accustomed to dealing with what statistics really mean.
This article from the New York Times highlights one of the most misunderstood statistical factors about vaccinations especially the flu vaccine. What does it really mean when someone has a problem after getting a vaccine?
It also reminds us of the hazards of 24/7 news coverage. And the hazards of black and white thinking (all vaccines are good and necessary; all vaccines are bad and unnecessary). I encourage you to read and think about these issues before you need to make a decision.
I am very grateful that this virus has remained mild and not mutated toward the virulent end of the spectrum (especially since one son had it while away from home this summer). But it is still early in the game and it’s a bit like trying to predict a hurricane. Where, when, how bad, too much, too little, too soon, too late, what are the best steps to take? It’s science at work in the real world, and some of the best of it out there comes from the CDC– but there are limits to human understandings, and decisions can only be made one day at a time and only with the info available right then. Life is still as much art as science.
I am grateful for people who are willing and able to put themselves on the front lines of making these really, really tough judgment calls.