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Give Your Child an Advantage

Having an advantage can make all the difference in life. Just ask the job applicant who knows someone on the inside or the athletic team playing on its home field. We parents also understand the importance of having an advantage. From providing our children with a wide variety of extracurricular activities to enrolling them in the best schools, we go to great lengths to ensure that they have every advantage in life. But what is the most important way to offer our children every advantage academically? Many researchers agree that the best way to give a child an educational edge doesn’t cost a penny and can be achieved in just minutes each day. Reading aloud to your child every day has been shown to deliver more benefits for a child’s cognitive development and future academic success than any other activity.

The research on the benefits of daily oral reading within the home is clear and plentiful. Reading aloud to young children (especially before the age of 5) has the potential to improve a child’s scholastic performance in all subject areas, improve vocabulary and speech development, help achieve a higher level of concentration, foster creative imagination, and build a closer relationship between parent and child. And this list is just the tip of the iceberg. Take a moment to Google “the importance of reading to young children” and you will find much more than a moment’s worth of reading on the topic.

Studies also highlight the importance of reading aloud to your child from birth or even in utero. Pam Allyn, executive director of LitWorld, noted in a recent interview, “When I walk into a kindergarten class, within the first 10 minutes I can tell which children have. . . been read to before they came to school. Their engagement with literature in the classroom, their capacity to listen deeply, to remain engaged, their stamina for early reading—all of those factors are potentially built right from birth.” Scientific research on brain development supports this idea as well. A 24-month-old child has twice as many synapses (connections between neurons) as an adult. “Reading to babies helps ‘wire in’ those synapses, so that babies get an early intellectual boost.”

Yet, despite the research, a number of obstacles hinder us from implementing oral reading into our daily schedules. Statistics show that just over 50% of children ages 4-35 months are read to every night. Your baby may fuss every time you sit down; you may feel overscheduled, spread too thin, or just plain exhausted. How can we offer these academic advantages to our children in spite of the daily hurdles we face? First, start now. Don’t stress about what you haven’t done in the past. Every new day is a gift from God and an opportunity to make positive changes in your life and the life of your children. Second, start small. The 15-20 minutes per day that experts recommend may seem overwhelming when your toddler seems to have a ten second attention span. Start by setting a small goal like reading one short book before bed each night. Utilize a few of the suggestions on the back page of this issue, and stick with them.

Finally, remember that our number one priority is to raise a child who knows the love of our Savior Jesus. So, while reading your young child a story about a cuddly animal or a mythical creature may offer a lifetime of academic advantages here on earth, reading a story about Jesus opens heaven’s door and offers an eternal advantage.

By Katherine Martin, from Parents Crosslink © 2014 Northwestern Publishing House. All rights reserved.

Katherine Martin lives with her husband, Josh, and their three children—Allison, Lucas, and Madelyn—in Speisheim, Germany.

Image by eyeliam is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

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