As schools across the state are celebrating National March into Literacy Month, experts are making an effort to help promote literacy as a family affair that can help to promote a lifelong love of reading. Susie Highley, president of the Association of Indiana School Library Educators, says reading to children at a young age, talking to them and asking questions, can expose children to millions of words before they enter kindergarten.
She says to choose books on topics the child is interested in, so reading is enjoyable.
“The idea of making reading a pleasure experience, not like, ‘OK, I’m going to set the timer and you have to read for 20 minutes,'” she explains. “Then the child is going to think, ‘Oh, it’s something I have to do,’ not something that’s a privilege to do.”
Highley says parents’ involvement in reading can play a factor in a student’s long-term success in school. According to the U.S. Department of Education, where parent involvement is high, classrooms score 28 points above the national average on reading tests.
Additionally, the more students read for fun on their own time, the higher their reading scores.
Highley admits that after a long day of school, reading at home can seem like a chore for some children. But she says you can teach literacy skills without even picking up a book.
“People make a joke of it but it really isn’t bad – reading what’s on the cereal box,” she explains. “Or looking at what’s on the billboards, or playing the license plate game, even those kinds of things – because some kids do kind of get worn out.”
Highley adds that technology, such as a tablet, can be a great educational tool that builds upon literacy skills. She says the key is to sit with children while they are playing, interact and talk to them.
“If you’re using something like a LeapPad, or some kind of program on the iPad, yes, they are learning and they might be learning their letters, but the interaction reinforces what they’re doing and helps them learn in many different ways,” she stresses.