In my post Yes Reading Matters I wrote that it was important for newborns to be read to as it helps their vocabulary and brain function. I recently found a NYT article on the importance of reading to newborns for the same reason. So if you haven’t read Proust and the Squid, this NYT article has almost a Reader’s Digest version of some of the research.
Is it important to begin to read to an infant even before they can see or even fully hear? If you ask some of my non-educator friends, they would say “Well Say they are so small and they can’t understand me anyway.” The truth is, the earlier babies hear words in sentences and different uses of the English language, the better it is for their language development. It can be hard to engage in a conversation with a person who will not talk back, but books gives us that in.
The difference between higher income families and lower income families is about one million words. Some families may not speak English fluently, or even using proper syntax, but reading in English or your native language will help close the one million word gap. (See the Hart and Risley Rice University study) http://centerforeducation.rice.edu/slc/LS/30MillionWordGap.html
The truth of the matter is that the achievement gap starts at infancy for some students. Because we are such in an Information Age, where books and the media are both at a touch of our fingers, the vocabulary and word gap should not be getting wider. The best way to combat that is through an introduction to books and print media at a very early age.
I admit, I do not have children yet, I am sure that it could be difficult to start a reading regime when dealing with crazy schedules, but reading the same story each night even while they are sleeping or falling asleep will activate brain function. Soon they will understand and speak eloquently.
What I am suggesting here is to take an Atticus Finch stance on education. Each night, Atticus would read from the evening paper, Scout, not yet able to attend school was able to hold eloquent conversations with others not in her age group. Hearing Atticus each night, inspired her to want to learn to write and read on her own.
Frustration in school usually comes from not being able to express when they don’t get it, as soon as they don’t get it. In order to really express themselves children need to really have the vocabulary to express their feelings. The easiest way for parents and educators alike to teach these words and skills is to expose children to literature full of vocabulary to help them to be successful.
For more information on the importance of how the brain understands words and language read Proust and the Squid by Maryanne Wolfe