Celebrate National Reading Month: give kids a big advantage by reading to them

Reading unlocks limitless discovery. Walt Disney was known to say, “There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate’s loot on Treasure Island.” Master of adult thrills-and-chills fiction, Stephen King, summed it up beautifully when he penned, “Books are a uniquely portable magic.”

March is National Reading Month and a terrific time to help kids celebrate the treasures and magic of books. It will also help boost their achievement. Former Olympic gold medalist figure skater Kristi Yamaguchi has long promoted the importance of early-childhood reading, establishing the Always Dream Foundation, focused on childhood literacy. Their Always Reading literacy program “combines technology with books to raise literacy skills, increase overall academic success and life potential.” The mother of two daughters has also authored the children’s book Dream Big, Little Pig, about a determined, figure-skating pig.

In recognition of National Reading Month Yamaguchi recently wrote an article for the Huffington Post about the importance of reading to preschoolers. In it she references data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, reported by Family Learning, a U.K.-based organization. She noted that “Kids who are read to at least three times a week by someone in the family -- a parent, grandparent, even a sibling -- are almost twice as likely to score in the top 25 percent in reading compared to children who were read to less often.” 

Family Learning also reported that “According to the National Institute for Literacy, when parents or other family members frequently read to children entering kindergarten, those children were at a distinct advantage over children whose families read to them less often.”

Nowhere is there a more charming opportunity for reading to kids than the Bumble Bear Storybook Series. Bumble Bear is always in search of a shortcut to honey while his loving family and some sharp-witted bees try to keep him on the right path at Honey Hill Farm. His get-honey-quick schemes offer a hilarious look at the right and the wrong way to get a job done. Kids will love story time as the tales of Bumble Bear’s outlandish schemes unfold. Parents and grandparents will find four charming stories in this beautifully illustrated series: The Beeginning, The Garden Party, Roll Out the Barrel, and Pointing the Way. They are available as Kindle eBooks.

In addition to reading to kids, giving them tools that build early language and reading readiness skills and make reading seem fun, is essential. Workbooks that combine coloring and/or stickers with learning colors and shapes help toddlers get ready to read. Slightly older preschoolers benefit from a variety of workbooks, flash cards, and apps.

As kids prepare for and start school, the three-level Start to Read! series of books includes dozens of great stories for beginning readers, available in print and e-formats. Created by educators, the books develop imagination along with vocabulary and language skills. In the Level 3  book The Fabulous Principal Pie, students propose to their school principal a new cafeteria menu that includes “…banana dogs and root beer pie or bubble gum stew with nuts piled high?” The Level 2 book I Don’t Like Peas puts a clever spin on the time-honored childhood tradition of refusing to eat certain things: “Our cat likes peas. She thinks peas are fun. When a pea hits the floor, she starts to run.”  Many of the vocabulary words in these books can be read by changing the initial sound or by rhyming with a known word. The Start to Read! Complete Early Reading Program 18-Book Set includes 15 Beginning Readers (3 at each level), plus 3 Read-Along and Song CDs with all 15 narrated stories and 30 original songs.

Reading to kids and getting them ready to read is one of life’s joyful journeys. Enjoy it each day.