Books, books, books! *

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My earliest memory of reading is in kindergarten. My parents didn’t read books to me, but my grandparents and great grandmother told me many stories, especially Korean myths and folktales, and sang lots of songs to me.

When I started kindergarten, I had to go to ESL because Korean had been my primary language at home. I only knew a handful of English words from watching Sesame Street. It was a shock to my parents that I had to go to ESL because I was born in the United States and they assumed that I would pick up English in Kindergarten. No one had told them about school readiness or having an early literacy foundation.

In efforts to catch me up on reading, writing, and English, my dad embarked on this intensive reading/writing exercise for me. It involved lots of books that were accompanied by a tape (you could listen to the story being read and then a chime would sound to let you know that you should turn the page) and notebooks filled with all the words from those very books copied over and over again.  I think I did this every night for about a month or two. After that, I rejoined a regular kindergarten class when they were exploring the letter “O” and tasting olives (which I really disliked then, but love now). I was on par with all the rest of the kids of my class and embraced my new found love of the English language, writing, and reading.

I would not recommend my dad’s course of action, of course, but I would definitely recommend the heart behind it. He realized that it was important to lay the foundations for literacy through reading, writing, and spoken words. I’m thankful that my dad introduced to me the whole world of books, writing, and storytelling. It’s something that I treasure greatly and hope to pass down to my daughter.

Since Ninjette started kindergarten in September, reading and literacy has been on my mind a lot. It’s been on her mind a lot, too. Her one major goal for this year is to learn how to read. (Atta girl!) I’ve been channeling my former teacher self and researching about sight words, activities, and books that will help her to accomplish that goal.

Last week, I was invited to participate in a webinar conversation about early childhood literacy with Dr. Laura Bailet and the folks at Nemours BrightStart! and I was so excited! The timing was perfect. During the webinar, I walked away with some interesting findings:

  • If a child is not reading at grade level by the end of first grade that child only has a 10% chance of reading at grade level by the end of fourth grade.
  • Literacy is the single, strongest predictor of health.
  • More than 30% of all children struggle with learning to read

Despite my past teaching background, I was most shocked by the first finding that a child only has a 10% change of reading at grade level if they are not reading at grade level by first grade. It was a stark reminder about the importance of early childhood literacy.

As a busy parent, it can be overwhelming to tread the waters of early childhood literacy. Nemours BrightStart! created a free website and online reading readiness program at readingbrightstart.org. There is a great evidence based screener for preschool reading readiness for children between the ages of 3-5. The screener helps to identify at-risk readers and offers research and science based activities and resources for parents and caregivers to build reading success. The other helpful part of this site is that it also has a list of recommended books by age.

I bet my dad could’ve used a website like this when I was a kid! My final takeaway from the webinar was that laying down the foundation for reading and literacy can take as little as 15 minutes a day. It happens when we have conversations with your kids around stories, books, or just the day-to-day. The conversations help to build language foundations for future reading successes. If you need some help with conversation, you can use the books you’ve read together to shape the conversation. I know we’ve come up with different endings or made up songs based on the books we’ve read!

I hope you’ll take a few minutes to go check out ReadingBrightStart.org and that you will find it helpful. I know I will be using the recommended books list a lot! Do you have any favorite books that you would recommend for my five year old?

P.S. I almost forgot to add – are you a multi-lingual family? There are some resources for you, too! Keep it up, also – multiple languages are extremely beneficial!

*I was gifted reading readiness products from Nemours and was invited to participate in the webinar conversation for this blog post. All opinions and stories are my own!

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