THIRTY years of research has demonstrated that there is a strong correlation between parental involvement and children's success at school.
In fact, a home environment that encourages learning is more important to student achievement than a family's income, education level, or cultural background.
Of all academic subjects, research shows that reading is the most sensitive to parental influence. In 1994, the College Board established a positive correlation between reading achievement and parents’ support for their children's reading efforts. Below is a simple quiz you can take to find out how you are doing in providing a supportive reading environment. Give yourself 5 points on each question if you feel you are doing “excellently” in that area; 4 – “very well”; 3 – “well”; 1 or 2 – “poorly”; and 0 points for “ very poorly.”
- My child sees me reading something every day.
- I read aloud to my child every day.
- My children and I have our own library cards. We make regular trips to the library.
- Things to read are easy to find in our home.
- I talk with my child about what I am reading and watching.
- My child often reads things aloud to me.
How did you score?
30 to 25: Excellent, you are right on track. Talk to your child’s teacher for some new ideas.
20 to 15: Good work, you could ask your child’s teacher for some suggestions that will raise your score or try some suggestions below.
14 to 0: You need to improve. Here are some tips to help you get started.
Read something every day
- Read every day at a regular time.
- Read from a variety of materials like magazines, comic books, and newspapers in addition to books.
- Choose what is interesting to you and your child: sports, comics, or animal stories.
- Talk about what you read.
- Ask your child’s opinion about what he reads.
Have a library card and make regular trips to the library
- Spend quality time with your child at the library.
- Encourage your child to look for many kinds of reading materials.
- Take advantage of story hour, computer usage, family night, summer reading clubs.
- Remember the librarian is there to help you.
- Use your school library as well as the public library to get reading material.
Have reading material in easy-to-access locations in your house
- Turn off the TV and read regularly.
- Share stories at bedtime.
- Share your favorite childhood stories with your child.
- Talk about what you are reading together.
- Have books within easy reach.
Talk to your child about what you are reading or watching on TV
- Ask questions about what you read.
- Talk about new words.
- Play word games like “I Spy.”
Read aloud to and with your child
- Read and reread favorite stories.
- Read with your child all school year long.
- Read with your child in the summertime.
- Take turns reading pages or reading in unison.
In conclusion, the family's role in children's reading achievement is undisputed. If you are not doing so already, take your children to the library, help them get a library card and find books on their interests and hobbies, provide a variety of reading material in the home, talk to them about what you are reading and watching on TV, and most importantly read aloud to them every day. It really is the single most important activity for building the knowledge required for success in reading.
Elizabeth Hamilton, M.Ed, MA, is a teacher with 23 years of professional experience. You can write to her at successfullearner[at]yahoo.com with your questions or comments.