When did you start to read? How did you learn?
I don’t remember how I learned to read. What I do know is that I could read from earliest memory. Books were part of my life, from comics in the daily paper to Saturday-morning trips to the library, from word games to the Weekly Reader summer book club. I was lucky my parents immersed me in books. All kids aren’t so fortunate, particularly children in low-income families.
The foundation for learning to read
- Research shows that by age 5, a typical middle-income child recognizes 22 letters of the alphabet, compared to 9 letters for a child in a low-income family.
- Homes of middle-income children have 13 age-appropriate books per child. Homes of low-income children average 1 book for every 300 children.
- Children without much book experience, may not know capital from lower case letters. They may not know to start at the front and read to the back. Or to start at the top of the page.
Is it any surprise that these children aren’t well equipped to start kindergarten? Or to succeed later on? Research also shows that up until third grade, children learn to read. From third grade on, they read to learn.
I’ve read to my grandchildren at every opportunity since they were born, but I’ve always thought I should do more. This summer, I finally sought out a way to share my love of reading with more children. I found an avenue through the United Way of Central Iowa Book Buddy program.
Book Buddies are committed to helping children be reading ready when they make the big move to kindergarten.
Each week, we Book Buddies arrive a few minutes early to read the assigned book of the week and absorb the instructions for aspects of the book to focus on. The first week, for instance, we talked about the author and illustrator. The next week, we talked about upper and lower case letters. Last week, we explored long and short words. We also read the book. All in two, twenty-minute sessions with two children.
Most weeks, I’m reading one-on-one with the same two children. So we get to know each other. I read with my children on Tuesdays. Another volunteer reads the same book to the children on Thursdays. This volunteer focuses on another aspect the book. There’s always something new to discover in a good book, right? On Friday, the teacher gives the child his or her very own copy of the book to take home and encourages the child to talk about the book with others in the family. Already, they’re sharing their enthusiasm for reading.
I am so excited by these four-year-olds. They’re bundles of energy and curiosity. And, they are so smart. Unstoppable Kendrick pointed out capital letters before I asked him. A more shy girl, Mulkie is eager to look for the letters of her name in the books. They are having fun with the books, and that’s the whole point.
Working with these children, I’m optimistic they will be ready for kindergarten. I’m thrilled they will end the year with their own library of 24 books, stories they can enjoy again and again and share with others. I’m excited to be part of their journey toward loving books as much as I do.
How were you introduced to reading? What ways have you found to share reading with others?