Foundation for Learning is Built Upon Reading

It's a simple act that all parents and caregivers can do to assist learning in a child's
earliest years.

There is much that parents can do to provide the greatest opportunities for their son or daughter right from birth.

In Memphis, many of our children are already at a disadvantage in learning before they even step through the schoolroom door. Only 42 percent of our city's children arrive at kindergarten prepared to learn. And studies show that when a child starts behind, he will probably stay behind.

As a child's first teachers, parents and caregivers play a significant role in preparing a child for kindergarten. They have the ability to lay the foundation for learning in the earliest years.

Luckily, there is something simple that all parents and caregivers can do to build this solid foundation, and all it takes is 20 minutes a day: Read!

Brain development research shows that reading aloud to your child every day increases the brain's capacity for language and literacy skills. As you read to your child, you are not only stimulating his brain, you are also bonding with him physically and emotionally. Reading creates a positive early experience that will have a huge effect on a child's chances for achievement, success and future happiness.

Children exposed to books and reading during the preschool years enter kindergarten with a listening vocabulary seven times greater than those who don't have this exposure. Your child is like a sponge absorbing all that is around him -- words, songs, pictures and stories included. Reading to your child is one of the single most important things you can do to prepare him for school.

Reading aloud 20 minutes a day strengthens relationships, encourages listening and language skills, promotes attention and curiosity, and establishes a strong reading foundation for your child. Your child will learn to recognize letters, pictures and numbers. He will learn how to hold a book and understand that words on a page say something and have meaning. These skills will allow your child to have a greater opportunity for success as he enters kindergarten.

Our organization, Shelby County Books from Birth, wants the best for the children of Shelby County. We want all children to have strong family bonds and arrive at kindergarten prepared to learn and succeed. That's why Books from Birth provides books to all children so they all can have the same opportunity to succeed.

Books from Birth is currently aiding more than 31,000 children in Shelby County by providing an age-appropriate book directly to their homes each month. When they arrive at kindergarten, these children will experience the benefits of stronger reading habits and higher reading readiness scores.

According to a 2012 research study conducted by The Urban Child Institute, Memphis City Schools kindergartners who participated in the Books from Birth program benefited from meaningful advantages when compared with children who did not participate. Overall, children who participated in the program:

  • Scored 10 percent higher on reading readiness scores when they began kindergarten.
  • Were better prepared for kindergarten.
  • Were read to more often and had more literacy support at home.

According to Doug Imig of The Urban Child Institute, "Memphis is a city where one-third of adults have difficulty reading. School readiness becomes school success, which becomes school graduation, which becomes a likelihood of enrolling in college, which becomes avoiding risky teen behaviors, which becomes a better prepared labor pool. The Books from Birth program is a way in which we as a community can make smart, specific investments that will have profound and lasting effects."

We are a community. It is not enough to want what is best for your child; it is important to want what is best for all children. We must ask ourselves: As parents and as a community, are we taking the time to invest in the early years for all of our children? If not, you can start today to improve a child's future by spending just 20 minutes of your time reading to him. We all have the opportunity to build a community of readers which one day will be a community of leaders.

Nora Capwell is executive director of Shelby County Books from Birth.

This article was originally published by the Commercial Appeal at: