Playdates with God: Why You Should Never Stop Reading Aloud to Your Kids

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“We exist to change the literary climate in West Virginia.”

Her name is Mary K. Bond and she is the executive director for Read Aloud West Virginia. She stood at the head of the table and looked each one of us in the eye. There were five of us sitting, five potential volunteers. Before we can go into a classroom and read to children, we have to complete this training.

“Seventy-three percent of our children do not read proficiently by fourth grade. And we know that fourth grade is a benchmark. From pre-K to fourth grade you are learning to read. But from fourth grade on, you are reading to learn.”

She went on to tell us that many children’s reading skills plateau at fourth grade. Poor readers are less likely to complete a high school education, she said. And this puts them at risk for things like substance abuse and teen pregnancy.

Mary K. told story after story of how her read aloud volunteers have changed lives. The one about the woman who, at her daughter’s high school graduation was approached by a girl she didn’t recognize. “Why would you,” the girl said, “When the last time you saw me I was in the first grade?”

The young woman thanked her and told her that she had sparked in her a love of reading that without, she probably wouldn’t have graduated high school. “When I saw you I realized that you are part of the reason I am here today.”

The one about the man who read Shakespeare to a classroom of inner city kids. The principal later told him that he heard one boy yell to another one on the playground, “Wherefore art thou?”

Change the literary climate.

It’s an audacious goal. West Virginia is the only state entirely in the Appalachian region. Our poverty rate is 17.6%, compared to a national average of 14.9%. We are below the national average in percentage of high school graduates and average household income. For many in our state, poverty is a way of life.

This makes a difference in the reading climate. Mary K. shared some information from the Study of Meaningful Differences. Two researchers studied families from different SES levels over a period of years. They discovered that there are significant differences in the total number of words heard by children from different SES backgrounds. By the age of four, children from professional families heard 45 million words. Children from working class families heard 26 million. And children from families whose income was below the poverty level heard only 13 million words. These differences are startling, and they appear as early as eighteen months.

A Stanford University study found that talking directly to toddlers strengthened their language skills. What better way to talk to a child than to read to him or her?

A University of Nevada twenty year study on increasing economic stability found that the number one thing that impacts this is increasing the number of books in a child’s home.

And don’t I know first hand the power of reading? When I contacted Mary K. about volunteering, I told her, “I’m one of those Appalachian kids whose life was changed by reading. If I can pass that on, that’s what I want to do.”

“When you go in the classroom to read,” Mary K. said, “You will change lives.”

I’m looking forward to it. I’ve been missing someone to read to for a while now. And I know I will be changed too.

I’m having two giveaways on my blog this week. Don’t forget to visit this post and this post for chances to win. 

Every Monday I’ll be sharing one of my Playdates with God. I would love to hear about yours. It can be anything: outside, quiet time. Maybe it’s solitary. Maybe it’s loud and crowded. Just find Him. Be with Him. Grab my button at the bottom of the page and join us:

Laura Boggess

Comments

  1. says

    As I read this post, my granddaughter is sleeping beside me. She fell asleep last night with me reading to her. The grandkids all expect it of me…when they come over they look forward to me reading stories.

    I remember reading to their parents. And I remember my parents reading to me…Mama at nap time and Papa at bedtime…

    It’s a good legacy and one I’m glad to have been a part of passing on.

    Thanks for sharing!

  2. says

    My favorite part of being a mama … and now a grandma, is this. Right here. Nothing beats curling up under a big ol’ quilt with a little one or two and a whole stack of very worn books that their own mamas read when they were tiny.

    We snuggle close and lean into the pages they eagerly turn.

    This is the life.

    Literally.

  3. says

    I love this. We are a read-aloud family. It has always been the heart of our homeschool and all my kids still participate. There are certain series they will not read on their own because it would ruin it, they say. And I am good with that. I even read out loud to my spouse. We choose something to read together and it gives us an opportunity to for good, productive communication. I love the idea we can the literary climate in our community!

  4. says

    This is a WONDERFUL reminder for all of us lady, kids or no kids, to take a stance and get more involved in our communities. I used to work with a literacy program in our community and it was so amazing to reach out and help others learn things that we take for granted. Such a simple way to bless others. Thanks for the reminder today. 🙂

  5. says

    I have always loved to read. And even more so, I enjoyed reading to my children & now my granddaughters. To see their delight in stories & picture & voice inflection speaks so deeply to me of the importance of stories. Loved reading this post!

  6. says

    Laura–two things-the title of the book on the top of the stack in the first picture–‘Are my Bones Bendy?’–so fun! And two–the first line–talk about a mission statement! Here’s to reading aloud!

    • says

      I know, right? That book series was a fun science set that my mother-in-law bought for the boys. These pictures are of a book drive round up that we participated in a couple years ago. We have so many books. I looked around and started feeling like a miser of some kind. I pray the bendy-bones book is in the home of a child who love it and has read it over and over!

  7. says

    i love that statement that up until fourth grade they are learning to read; after that, they are reading to learn. I never heard that, but it’s so true. And the kid shouting, “Wherefor art thou?” on the playground! Too much! So glad that you’re doing that. My dad and stepmother did the same thing in SC a few years back (when they were younger). It’s sad that so many parents don’t even think to read to their kids; even sadder when the parents can’t. Thanks for hosting another playdate!

  8. says

    This is great, Laura! i have always loved books and I pray my daughter does too. When I was pregnant with her, we didn’t find out if she was a boy or girl until she arrived. This opened the door for us to encourage shower-gifters not to do gender focused gifts, but instead give us books with a little message written in the front. What a blessing! (There are SO many awesome kids books out there.)

    She is about 20 months now and loves flipping through the pages or asking us to read to her… She isn’t quite interested in the awesomeness of the library yet, but we are working on it. (This Mama has no problem geeking out in the stacks even without here “help.”)

    Thanks for all you do here. Keep it up!

    • says

      What a wonderful idea, Sharita. A book shower. I still love kids books. While we were in the training, I wrote down so many titles that I want to read. My children might be embarrassed that their mother reads books for grade-schoolers, but at least now I’ll have an excuse!

  9. Sharon says

    This is an exciting venture that you’re about to go on! I love reading, and I collect books like friends! I think reading is so very important for so many reasons. And our children need this skill. With the advent of video games and social media, I’m afraid that many are losing the fineries of literature. So, I say – you go, girl! Let’s introduce our young people to the wonders of the written page, and the mysterious and beautiful roads of the imagination!

    GOD BLESS!

  10. says

    I couldn’t agree more. My love of reading comes from my Mom. She loved reading to us as kids. As we grew older I watched her read in between tasks at home. She always had a book with her. That’s where my love of reading comes from. Thank you, Mom. I miss you.

  11. says

    Oh, how I love this, Laura. I loved reading aloud to my kids but it’s been awhile for me too. I pray that when I have grandkids, they will enjoy being read to. What a beautiful gift you are giving the world through this reading program. May God bless it and grow it and touch many lives through it.

    • says

      I’m hoping to get started next month, Diana. Just in time for all the good Christmas books! I’ve pondered over and over how to give back, what’s the best way. This gets at the very root of me. Books may have saved my life. In some ways. You would be a blessing as a reader in any classroom.

  12. says

    Oooh, you know I love this, Laura. Right now I’m introducing my kids to “A Cricket in Time’s Square.” I don’t remember the plot at all, but remember I loved it as a child. What has surprised me is how often I find God (or God finds me) in the reading of “children’s” books. Enjoy your time!

  13. says

    Reading to our children (even my older children still love to be read to) not only adds to their ability to converse and to comprehend but the connection to a living breathing person who had taken time for them leaves quite an impression. It bridges gaps that our fast paced society misses. It takes time to invest in telling stories and connecting through words and books, time that is too easily taken up with things that mean little and steal moments. It sets a precedent, as well. When we read to them, they in turn read to others.
    It’s a beautiful thing.

    Blessings,
    Dawn

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