You can never start reading to your child too early

Editor’s Note: Randy Brown, Ph.D. is Director of Institutional Research at Gavilan College in Gilroy. This is the first in an occassional series of cloumns on Human Development. 


Ok, let’s get this out of the way.  I am not a perfect parent!  My wife, my children, and probably my neighbors can provide testimony to this fact.  I do, however, study, conduct research, and teach child development and try really hard as a parent.  For parents and caregivers, there is so much research and information out there it can make your head spin.  In this series of articles, I am going to remind folks of some fundamental, research-based practices that can help the children of San Benito County develop into fantastic humans.  

Importance of reading

The value of reading skills has been well-documented.  Children who read better in first grade have an increased likelihood of academic success in high school and beyond.  Reading expands a child’s understanding of vocabulary, grammar, and knowledge of the world.  The ability to read well also allows a student to access academic material and thus be more successful in school. 

Practices of reading

Schools teach children to read, right?  What?  No!  In fact, many of the underlying skills fundamental to reading can develop well before children enter Kindergarten.  Examples include a child’s ability to track the words and letters across the page, to identify the sounds that the letters make, and to recognize what sounds correct.  So, what can parents do?

Well, they can read to their children.  Reading practices all these skills with a child.  The simple act of a caregiver reading to a child is associated with higher reading readiness at 1st grade. 


Recent research has found a disturbing trend for parents in their interaction with their children.  A child learns a lot from the interplay between herself and her caregiver.  They learn language, how to communicate back and forth, and that what they say is valued.  More parent interactions are being interrupted by electronic devices.  When a caregiver is talking with a child while they are glancing at their electronic device, this disrupts the flow of the interaction.  This aversion of eye contact and attention disrupts the flow of parent/child interaction. So, when you are reading with a child, move away from your device.  The most important thing in the world at that moment is reading to your child.  


At the risk of sounding preachy, the value of reading to and with your child can’t be under-estimated.  Many nights, my head was bobbing as I struggled to stay awake reading a favorite Richard Scarry book to my sons for the millionth time.  Not all of the stuff we do with children matters long term, but taking the time to read with them does!

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