Is Something as Simple as Reading With My Child Worth It?

by Terry Doherty, Executive Director of the Reading Tub


In a word: Yes!

As a parent, I see how the unexpected turns of everyday life can creep in and take over my life. Sometimes, I just want to find a quiet space and disappear. But, if I look at the glass as half full, rather than half empty, I can have it all. Sitting with my daughter to read a book IS like having a quiet space. Even with 15 minutes, I am getting myself back on track AND making a crucial investment in my daughter’s success.

We can never forget that children are creatures of pleasure, just like us. If they enjoy something and have positive experiences with it, they tend to continue to do that activity.  If they don’t like it, they will avoid it. In fact, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) 2000 national reading assessment of fourth-grade students found that reading for fun had a positive relationship to performance on the NAEP reading scores. The 87% of students who reported reading for fun on their own time once a month or more performed at the Proficient level, while students who never or hardly ever read for fun performed at the Basic level. Students who read for fun every day scored the highest. 

There was another longer-term study, published in the spring of 2000, that had similar results. This U.S. Department of Education analysis found that children who were read to at least three times a week by a family member were almost twice as likely to score in the top 25% in reading than children who were read to less than three times a week.  Just like physical exercise, there are cumulative benefits when you do something regularly.

The Reading Tub®, a Virginia nonprofit organization dedicated to literacy and reading, shares additional critical facts on the impact reading or not reading with your child can have:

  1. Children who have been read to several times a day as a young child, did substantially better in kindergarten than youngsters whose parents read to them a few times a week or less often. The group of children who were read to on a daily basis were 1.6 times as likely to be rated by their teachers as being near the top of their kindergarten class in learning skills, and 2.3 times as likely to be near the top of their class in communication skills. These relationships hold true regardless of the income of the child’s household and the education of the child’s mother.
  2. The average kindergarten student has seen more than 5,000 hours of television, having spent more time in front of the TV than it takes to earn a bachelor's degree. [Our children need balance.]
  3. Eighty percent of college faculty members report that entering freshman cannot read well enough to do college work. Only 37 percent of high school students score high enough on reading achievement tests to handle adequately college level material—yet almost 70 percent attempt college-level work.
  4. According to the US Department of Education, a functionally illiterate adult earns 42%  less than a high school graduate.  It is estimated that $5 billion a year in taxes goes to support people receiving public assistance who are unemployable due to illiteracy.

It IS Worth It!

With so many ideas on ways to build reading aloud into your routine, there is surely one to fit your lifestyle and busy schedule. There is no greater reward than reading with your children. You’ve carved out that very important time for connecting with your child AND given them the opportunity to excel in whatever they choose to do later in life. Read every day with your children – you’ll be glad you did.