Advice From a Teacher: Read to Your Child!

As a middle-school teacher, I am a first-hand witness to the difference between good parenting and poor parenting. When parents ask me what they can do to improve their child’s grade, they are expecting me to say something like, “take away their cell phone,” or “forbid them from having these friends,” or “force them to do their homework before they eat.”

While taking away a cell phone and monitoring friend interactions are certainly helpful practices, many parents are surprised to hear that my best advice is this: READ TO YOUR CHILD!

Studies have found that reading aloud to children affects their ability to read fluently, builds their context for learning new material, and, significantly, builds positive social-emotional behaviors. The latter is more important than you can imagine.

Reading aloud to your child can reduce the likelihood that they become aggressive as they age — and less rebellion means more homework and higher grades. Multiple studies, most notably a 2000 study by Neuman, Copple, and Bredekemp, have found that the amount of time an adult spends reading aloud to a child is the highest indicator of that child’s future academic success (Neuman, Copple & Bredekemp 2000).

A big buzzword in education these days is “grit.” “Grit” refers to the ability of a child to persevere in learning or other goals, despite apparent challenges. In a 2007 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, researchers found that “grit nonetheless demonstrated incremental predictive validity of success measures over and beyond IQ and conscientiousness (Duckworth 2007).”

This means that teaching your child to persevere in reading could place them, ultimately, above even peers with higher IQs! Grit, as demonstrated by a parent who consistently reads aloud to their child, can make all of the difference.

So what should you do if you, for some reason, can’t read to your child? If you are busy working, is there someone else who can read to your child? A babysitter, grandparent, or neighbor are all good options, so long as they are able to read.

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If you have a vocal disability, or cannot find someone able to read to your child, consider using an audiobook or text-to-speech converter software. If you have money to spend on audiobooks, Audible has almost any title you can imagine.

If your child is younger, and reading, say, a picture book, I like the site notevibes.com, which enables you to simply type out and paste the text of the book, and then play it to your child as an mp3. Notevibes even lets you customize text to speech voices that your child will hear, so you can really make read-aloud time feel personal for your child.

There are uncountable obstacles facing modern parents, I know. But, with a little bit of your own grit, you can demonstrate to your child how important reading is, and help them to grow up into successful students and adults.

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