This week, April 22-28, is officially the Week of the Young Child.  Many organizations in our community are recognizing this week as a time to focus on the needs of young children whether they be at home or at school.

To celebrate this week, the Teddy Bear Child Development Center invited several people to read to the 3 to 5-year-olds and I felt honored to read today.  I chose a book that was a favorite of my granddaughter Gwen called Dinosaurumpus! by Tony Mitton.  It’s a wonderful rhyming book but you have to be able to pronounce all those long dinosaur names. We had a great time making the roaring sound of the tyrannosaurus rex and the dancing sounds of the other dinosaurs doing the dinosaur romp.  I also took along a rubber dino for each of the children to take home.  It is so important to make reading fun at this age.

I know the phrase “reading is fundamental” is part of the American culture and certainly never goes out of style. Many factors contribute to the vocabulary of young children and reading is one of the biggest.  However, socio-economic factors often conspire to make the playing field unequal.  15 million children (or 21% of all U.S. children) live in families below the poverty line.  Besides contributing to poor health, poverty also decreases the chance that children will have stimulating reading in the home [The National Center for Children Living in Poverty.]

Economic advantage does make a difference when it comes to children learning vocabulary, a widely documented skill that leads to school success.  Speaking and reading both contribute to the amount of vocabulary children learn before formal schooling.  But children who live in the poverty zone hear approximately 616 words per hour, those living in a working class family hear 1,251 words per hour, and those who live in professional families hear 2,153 words [University of Oregon Center on Teaching and Learning.]  So the playing field is not level.

Reading to preschoolers is one way of helping that divide narrow.  Reading not only increases vocabulary, but it also helps with basic speech and communication skills, mastery of language, logical thinking, and social skills.  Furthermore, it teaches the basics of how to read a book.  Front to back and left side to right side of the page are skills that children have to be taught in order to learn how to read.  Those children going to school with a sound knowledge of how a book “works” are ahead of those who do not.

And even once in school children need to continue to read at home.  Many families have both parents working or a single working parent in the home.  It is tough to get everything done.But reading to your child–both preschooler and school age–is fundamental to their success in school.

Did your parents read to you?  Do you read to your own children and grandchildren?  What is your/their favorite book?