Please read this brief article on a University of Tennessee study done on reading and children. I will be talking about this study a lot on the blog, because there are lots of interesting elements to it, but for today, pull out that Christmas gift list you've made and see if you have the word, "Books" written anywhere on that page. Now read the article...
The conclusion is obvious, right? If your kids don't read over the summer, they will be behind in the fall.
But who would have thought giving low-income kids books in their home could make such a difference. Many would be skeptical about this, I think, because we want things to be complicated and very, very expensive, but it turns out, reading is neither.
If you spend forty to fifty dollars a year per child in books that they choose for themselves and can read whenever they want—if the books don't have to be returned—if the books are THEIRS to have—the achievement gap is closed. No fancy reading interventions are needed.
Things this study found to be essential:
1) Doing this with young children, first and second grade children, not just older kids
2) Letting them pick out the books themselves
It would be difficult to do this for Christmas. We want to surprise our kids in Christmas morning, but maybe it's worth doing things a little differently. Take your child to the bookstore, or the Scholastic Book Warehouse sale. Let them pick out their Christmas books. Give them a predetermined number of books or amount of money (then let them get a few more). Wrap them, let them open them up on Christmas Day. They'll know what's coming, but their anticipation might be as good, if not better than a surprise.
I'm going to try this out this year. I always pick out my kids books for Christmas. This year, I'm going to let them come with me to the warehouse sale. I can honestly say that maybe half of the books I give them each year are devoured quickly. The others are read when they have nothing else to read or do, and many of the books are not read at all.
With the new common core being put in place in most states (I'm going to be talking about this A LOT too), standards are being raised. For some time schools have let children decide what to read as long as it is within a certain level. No longer. The new rigor in the common core won't allow for that. (For example, one of the curriculum maps I was looking at for eighth graders had them reading Catcher in the Rye and Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man—in eighth grade! I read those as a senior in high school, and I still don't understand Portrait.)
What is happening at home in terms of reading is more important than ever. Please, show your kids you love reading and you think it is important by getting them books for Christmas. Many, many books. You can spend an average of $2.50/book at the warehouse sale. Ten books would only be $25.00! And if you don't want all those books in your house, rethink that notion. A house full of books is a house full of learning. So many very successful writers today attribute their love of books to their parents and to the stacks and stacks of books all over their house. Stacks and stacks and stacks. (A good friend of mine puts together a book train that leads up to the Christmas tree. The kids scoop them up as they wake up in the morning. You could think of it as a train leading to bright, intelligent, successful future for your kids...)
I am going to make a very opinionated statement here, and it is one I will never back down from!
Every child should have a bookshelf in their room. Their very own bookshelf overflowing with their very own books. Make it so this Christmas. Make it so.