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Learning to Read Begins at Birth

August 10, 2012

A father reads to his daughter after a CLiF event.

By Gretchen Stern

At the age of three, I taught myself to read. My parents describe, with a twinge of surprise, an almost comical picture of me – a tiny, blonde, and generally bubbly three-year-old – painstakingly focused on connecting the dots by taking a word I knew from one book and identifying it in another.

I was so determined that I often sat for long periods and wrestled with frustration as I tried to get it right. But eventually, it clicked, and I started reading to myself at the age of three.

Though I do feel a slight swelling of pride at saying, “I taught myself to read at the age of three,” I know that this feat was only possible due to a few key factors:

  • There were books in my home.
  • I was read to on a regular basis.
  • My parents, friends, and family members interacted with me regularly.

There is an all too common misconception that a child does not learn to read until he or she is in school – or at least in preschool. Additionally, according to the National Literacy Trust’s Words for Life campaign, 29% of parents believe that other individuals in their child’s life – such as teachers, day care staff, and other family members – are more influential in their child’s development of reading, writing, and speech than parents themselves.

This misconception has led to at least 14% of parents neglecting to read to or engage in literacy activities with their children.

The truth is, reading begins at birth – or possibly even in the womb! Children learn sounds, words, practice speaking, observe, and engage in the give and take of conversations, start to identify familiar objects, connect names with those objects, and eventually learn how to recognize that name in a book.

Reading cannot happen without a complex web of learning, and each piece of that puzzle is as important as the others.

Here at CLiF we offer seminars to parents in which we describe the importance of reading to children, as well as tactics for those parents who may be slightly intimidated by reading aloud. And we work hard to get books in the hands of low-income and at-risk children in New Hampshire and Vermont, because we know that books are essential tools for learning to read.

If a child of three years can learn to read simply via the availability of books in the home and parents or caregivers who are actively engaged in speaking to, listening to, and reading with a child, then we want to spread that message through the programs we offer.

Parents, do you remember the first time your child read a book by herself? How did that feel to witness this blossoming skill?

Possible tags: #101 uses for books  #Use number two: learning to read

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