It is perfectly natural for us as parents to read to our children. We want to impart to them our love of books and knowledge, to spend quality time with them, and best of all to put them to sleep so that we can have some down time.
However did you know that most of the time that you are reading to them, you are merely entertaining them rather than actually teaching them to read? Yes, only five to six percent of the time are they actually paying attention to the actual printed words on the pages that you are reading from. The vast majority of your reading time together consists of your children looking at the pictures, watching your face and hands, or possibly just being distracted with their own thoughts.
Can we teach our children actual reading skills while reading to them aloud? The answer is yes according to Annie Murphy Paul, the author of the forthcoming book Brilliant: The New Science of Smart. The research shows that comfort with books and familiarity with reading material is not what develops reading skills in the very young. The crucial element is actual “print knowledge,” the development of which will require some effort on your part.
In a recent article on KQED, Annie Murphy Paul wrote:
In a study published in the May-June issue of the journal Child Development, for example, Ohio State professor Shayne Piasta and her coauthors report that when preschool teachers drew students’ attention to print while reading to them, the children’s skills in reading, spelling and comprehension improved. Piasta proposes that such interventions encourage children’s emerging reading abilities in two ways. First, they directly increase the amount of time kids spend attending to print. And second, they provide explicit information about the forms and functions of print, helping children to learn in the moment and remember in the future.
This accentuation can be non-verbal—pointing to letters or words on the page—or it can be spoken. Left to their own devices, research finds, adults rarely generate questions or comments about print, but it’s a practice that’s easy to adopt. Ask, “Where should I begin reading on this page?”, and “Do you know this word?” Say, “I spot three capital letters on this page—see if you can find them,” or “This dot here is a period, and it tells me I’ve reached the end of the sentence.” Point out, “This is the title of the book—it’s on the cover and also on the inside,” and “This is the name of the author—she wrote all the words that you see.”