Committee Corner: The Gift of Literacy for the Holiday

John Monfredo, Worcester School Committee Member

The holiday’s are here and it’s a perfect time to emphasize the importance of books in the home. Let’s not forget literacy in the lives of our children. Studies show that having books in the home is a key factor in encourage the love of reading. We all are aware that regular exposure to books increases learning achievement but unlike many of our middle income households children in low income homes just don’t have the luxury of having books in their home.  According to research the ratio of books in the middle income home is 13:1 and in the low income books per child is 1:300.

The lack of books in many homes is one of the major reasons my wife, Anne-Marie, and I started Worcester: the City That Reads.  In ten years we have given out over 320,000 to the community.  This past month, with the holiday coming, we again have given out thousands of books to the community. Thanks to a number of partnerships with book publishers and caring individuals within the community we were able to accumulate 1000’s of books for distribution this holiday season.

Books have been given to schools, community centers, social agencies, inter-faith groups, Head Start, 100’s to Toys for Tots and to a number preschool sites.  It’s our hope that that these books will make its way into the children’s homes and in many cases be found under the Christmas Tree. Our goal continues to keep the “fire” burning on the importance of literacy in the lives of our children.  By the way, if anyone has books that children have outgrown let me know and I’ll be happy to find a good home for those books.

This year, over one million children in the United States will enter kindergarten without the language skills necessary. The lacking of language skills is mainly because of the not having books in their homes and not having  parents reading to them.  In addition, according the research children who enter kindergarten with a small vocabulary are not  taught enough words at home—particularly, sophisticated academic words—to close the gap.

As a society we need to keep the issue of literacy burning for those who read well succeed in life and we as a community have an obligation to do all that we can to foster a love for reading.

Parents are the key to a child’s success in developing a LOVE for reading… Here are some suggestions to consider…

  •  Use your local and school libraries as the most economical way to fill your childʼs world with great books that are age-appropriate, current, and support your childʼs interests.
  • Get each family member a library card. Community library cards are free. Make a date with your child/children once or twice a month to visit libraries in your area. Check on story times, author visits, and book fairs that your library promotes to the community.
  • Buy/Checkout books on your childʼs area of interest (i.e., skateboarding, hairstyles, young celebrities, or sports, etc.).
  •  Allow your child to choose an easy book. Reading books at a lower level or the same books over and over helps increase confidence and fluency.
  • Read to your child often. Sit next to your child and get comfortable together on a sofa or in a comfortable chair to prolong reading time.
  •  Keep a variety of books and other reading materials around the house (i.e., magazines, comic books, coffee table books, library books, and newspapers). Read together. Keep the story flowing by offering to read every other page, paragraph, or sentence.
  •  When shopping, encourage your child to help you by reading labels, food containers, signs, ads, billboards, and any other printed materials.
  • Buy/Checkout/Borrow/Trade educational games that help build vocabulary skills, visual memory, and word recognition. Ask other parents that have children your childʼs age to trade and swap books and games. It is cost effective!
  •  Play word games aloud with your child during free moments in the car, at the doctorʼs office, while cooking or cleaning, or when taking a walk outside. For example, “Name all the fruits you can” or “Think of all the words that rhyme with cat” or “How many words do you know that start with the letter d?” With older children, spelling games, crossword puzzle books, word searches, etc., are entertaining as well as great vocabulary builders. To avoid frustration, start with puzzles that are not too difficult.  These ideas will add additional words to your child’s vocabulary.
  •   Use letters and boards to spell messages, build sentences, or practice spelling words. Leave special messages for each other using the magnets.
  • Praise your child for the progress that he/she makes with reading expression, fluency, vocabulary, and word recognition. Compliment their decoding skills when reading new words and for being attentive to their tasks.

Give a diary, stationery, or notebook as a present during the holiday to your child/children for keeping a journal of events, daily activities, trips, etc.

Have your child read to you from the newspaper as you do quiet household chores (e.g., folding laundry, dusting, cooking, or baking). Let your child scan the newspaper and select titles, photo captions, ads, or whatever interests him/her to read. Have younger children read the cartoons and continue the story frames with what they think will happen next.

Encourage your child to read to younger siblings, friends, or other family members.

These are just a few suggestions that I hope you will consider during this holiday and have them as part of the families New Year’s resolutions.   Let’s all make literacy an everyday occurrence in the family.  Have any questions or ideas please e-mail me at… HAPPY HOLIDAY!

The Most Important 20 Minutes of Your Day….Read With Your Child

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.