The article continues to say that, “Teachers and administrators who work with children from low-income families say one reason teachers struggle to help these students improve reading comprehension is that deficits start at such a young age: in the 1980s, the psychologists Betty Hart and Todd R. Risley found that by the time they are 4 years old, children from poor families have heard 32 million fewer words than children with professional parents. By contrast, children learn math predominantly in school”.
Knowing that the acquisition of good reading skills begins at an early age the challenge is for parents to introduce their children to a world of books and literacy support in the home to support the reading program delivered in school. While this is easier said than done, for students learning English as a Second Language of whatever income the challenges can be even greater particularly if the parent does not have the reading level to support the child’s development.
When the Library Loan program was opened at Chez Alpha Books, it was based on the belief that somehow a mixed blend of selling new books while offering books for loan could be viable within the community and serve a variety of audiences. For many students and families the library loan program has become a lifeline that connects them to further develop or maintain a passion for books. To our delight, Senegal represents a reading audience still embracing the traditional book format and not yet so carried away by Kindle and Nook that the traditional book format is no longer interesting. Day by day we continue to share with library loan members the importance and the magic of developing strong reading skills.
Research has clearly shown that the more children read, the better they become at reading. It is true that practice makes perfect! If they like what they are reading they will read more often and really commit to finishing each book. As they become older they will be able to take this love of reading and transfer it into their ability to do research and access information. Children who read often develop a bigger and more diverse vocabulary. This growing vocabulary will also be useful to develop their writing skills and oral speaking abilities. Most important, parents should emphasize that reading is not just to complete homework. It is both an academic and recreational activity. Reading should be viewed as a pleasurable activity - as a source of entertaining tales and useful and interesting factual information.
While educators often focus on the importance of the parent reading to their child, my life is living proof that the constant presence of books and a day to day encouragement to read can introduce a young learner to the passion of reading for life. Growing up books were everywhere in my home. They were not always new, shiny books. Some were new and others found at thrift shops or yard sales. In my family, learning to sign your name was the key to become a certified library card holder. Weekly we walked to the library and through the hottest days of summer and the snowy days of winter we read and re-read book after book. We read by flashlight when we were told to turn of the light and go to bed and propped books up on the breakfast table to multi-task by reading and eating before we knew about multiple skills. We read for pleasure and sometimes through pain as we struggled to build a larger vocabulary, decode words, and overcome the complexities of reading.
Then one day I went off to college with a box of books in hand and the knowledge that I would soon be surrounded by many more. On the first weekend that I was able to return home, I stopped in the campus bookstore and bought I KNOW WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS by Maya Angelou. I entered my home with so much excitement and told my mother that I had a book that she was sure to love. She looked at me and calmly said, “I hate reading and always have!” I reminded her that we had read our entire life and that she had encouraged and almost forced us into reading sometimes. I asked her to remember the many days we had sat on the front porch with a book in hand and we were encouraged to read. Her final response was, “Yes, I sat with you all of the time and yes I always had a book on my lap but you didn’t notice that I never turned a page because I hate reading. But I wanted all of you to love reading!” And there it is. This method of encouraging a child to read did not require a professional degree or a large amount of money. As one comment related to the article “In Raising Scores…” said, “Nothing can replace the experience of sustained and engaged reading throughout childhood.” My mother knew this and she was not the working professional but there must be other mothers like her who will take advantage of any and all resources available and we hope that the Chez Alpha Library Loan program is their first stop!