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Celebrate Reading

To exercise your brain and keep it healthy, read. Just like you are doing now.

            This past Saturday, March 2, was National Read Across America Day, which has been celebrated on Dr. Seuss’s birthday since 1998. This day, created by the National Education Association, is intended for children and youth in every United States community to celebrate reading. Let’s stretch that celebration of reading through all of March for everyone, from children to adults.

Reading twenty minutes a day is the time that numerous research studies have proven makes a difference in a child’s learning. Generally, the more time we are exposed to something and the more time spent practicing it, the better we’ll become at performing it. This is true for reading. Reading exercises and stretches the brain; it connects the present with previous learning. Reading aloud to a child develops listening skills and prepares young children for learning. The single greatest factor in a child’s ability to read is being read to, even as a newborn.

When’s the last time you read to a child? It’s a gift, for the child and you. Snuggling a little one in your lap while reading aloud is a bonding time. Quiet, uninterrupted time. Once after I finished a book with Annabel, when she was 4, she said, “Gran, will you show me that again?” Show me again. Those words told me she had comprehended the story and transformed it to pictures. Don’t think a teen-ager is too old to be read to. They’ll not sit on your lap, but they’ll listen. Even adults like to hear someone read aloud. Years ago my Tennessee Tech professor, Dr. Eleanor Ross taught a class entitled Teaching of Reading and my favorite part of the class was the last few minutes when Dr. Ross read a children’s book aloud.

My love for reading goes back to childhood when Mom or Dad sat beside my bed and read from a Bible story book and whatever book I was reading at the time. When I was a fourth and fifth grade student, I read every biography that was in our school library. Do I remember the details of those people’s lives? No, but I read for fun and followed the example of everyone in my family who read newspapers, magazines, and books.

As an educator, mother, and grandmother, I’m convinced that children who are read to and have opportunities to read aloud and silently have a high probability of being successful students, and therefore, successful in their work. Research shows a strong correlation between a child’s ability to read and academic performance. You’ve probably heard that students first learn to read and then read to learn. It’s true.

We would all do well to follow the suggested 20 minutes daily reading habit. A well-known quote by Dr. Seuss sums up the importance of reading. “The more you read, the more you will know. The more you learn, the more places you’ll go.” Let’s share our reading, our learning, the places we go with someone else.

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