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Why Reading Books is Important
by Meredith Lord, Child Development Professional

Why do Americans eat so much fast food? "I just don't have the time to cook dinner." Why don't we exercise more? "I just don't have the time to commit to an exercise program." Why is my living room so messy? "I don't have enough time to clean up."

One thing that we all NEED to find time for is reading to our children for 20 minutes each day. According to the leading experts on this topic, here are the reasons why:

  • Children who read: succeed. The most significant part of a child's mental growth between the ages of three and seven is the ability to imagine. Books boost imagination. Our popular television culture degrades imagination.

  • TV and video are now our national babysitters. But a young child's growing mind needs active play and live conversation. Television puts a child into what neurologists call the passive Alpha state. A child cannot learn from screens because programs are meant to sell products not to teach.

  • Much like the first news about tobacco and cholesterol, early studies now link overdoses of TV, video games and pop music with learning disabilities, attention deficiency, speech defects and aggressive behavior.

  • Screen watching makes a child a follower and a consumer. Books exist because of the power of human ideas. Readers are leaders and producers.

  • After a tiring day nothing is more restful than reading with a child on your lap. Reading aloud offers a world of privacy, dignity, and love to both of you.

-From a speech by noted author/illustrator, Rosemary Wells.

"Infants can see and hear at birth, and seem genetically programmed to prefer to look at faces and listen to human voices. Infants perceive the world through all of their senses, and transfer information from one sense to another. Children learn predominantly by association. If books are part of loving parent-child interactions from an early age, children will associate the presence of books with all of the positive feelings of being held and loved. Undoubtedly, these associations are encoded in a profound way in the child's developing brain. Picture books provide an ideal context for parent-child interactions that are loving and stimulating. When parents look at picture books with young children, they provide stimuli in multiple sensory modes - visual, auditory, tactile, kinesthetic (the sense of movement). Parents use more complex language when looking at books, and also language that is more attuned to the child's cues. Books also invite active participation. Active learning involves more brain areas; things learned actively are more likely to persist in memory and to facilitate other knowledge acquisition."

- Dr. Robert Needleman, Division of Behavioral Pediatrics and Psychology, Rainbow Babies' and Children's Hospital, Cleveland, Ohio

"Pediatricians are trained to think in terms of prevention. Growing up without books is growing up deprived and with a deprivation that puts one at risk for failure. Just like many of the other risks and deprivations that children face in poverty, growing up without books is a sad loss in itself, but also a risk factor for larger, sadder losses. Double jeopardy. If we want our children to grow up reading, we have to do everything possible, and we have to do it as early as possible. Children either start school liking books and understanding what they are, or they start school way behind, set up for failure."

- Dr. Perri Klass, Boston Medical Center, Co-Founder of "Reach Out and Read"

"If you want to raise readers, you must provide them with books as soon as humanly possible. This is a parental obligation on par with vaccinations."

- Deirdre Donahue, children's book reviewer, USA Today

"We're luckier than the researchers who want to cure cancer and AIDS. We have the cure."

- Rosemary Wells, Author/Illustrator

Research compiled by [Jim] Trelease establishes that sharing books:

  1. Conditions the child to associate reading with pleasure, as association that is necessary in order to maintain reading as a lifelong activity.
  2. Contributes to background knowledge for all other subject areas, including science, history, geography, math, and social studies.
  3. Provides the child with a reading role model.
  4. Creates empathy toward other people, because literature values humanity and celebrates human spirit and potential, offering insight into different lifestyles while recognizing universality.
  5. Increases a child's vocabulary and grammar, and has the potential to improve writing skills.
  6. Improves a child's probability of staying in school.
  7. 7. Improves future probability of employment and higher quality of life.
  8. Increases life span by virtue of correlated education, employment, and higher quality of life.
  9. Lowers probability of imprisonment.
  10. Improves problem-solving and critical-thinking skills that are fundamental and transferable to all other areas of learning.
  11. Offers information.
  12. Offers laughter and entertainment and an alternative to television.
  13. Improves attention span.
  14. Stimulates the imagination.
  15. Nurtures emotional development and improves self-esteem.
  16. Reading skills are accrued skills that are bound to improve over time…a countdown to academic success.

- Author Esmé Raji Codell summarizing author Jim Trelease's book, ‘The Read-Aloud Handbook'

Now that we know how important it is to read to your child for 20 minutes each day, the question becomes, "What do we read?"

TotSites is pleased to announce our childrens book review section, offering reviews of high quality books for infants, toddlers, and preschool-aged children. Each review will include bibliographic data, the ideal age range for the book, and review of the contents. New books will be added each week. Enjoy!

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