Before lawmakers throw money at the thorny issue of early childhood education, they should consider an experiment under way in Richmond aimed at getting parents to read to their children daily.
K-Ready, the brainchild of two literacy activists, Victor Jose and Rick Ahaus, has one goal: “Reducing the number of children entering kindergarten not ready to learn.”
“We’re trying to get parents to read to their children from the time of their birth until they enter kindergarten,” Jose explained.
If they succeed, it would be the most cost-effective early childhood program imaginable. By reading aloud to children 20 minutes a day, parents are wiring the children’s brains for reading instruction, Jose said.
A report by Educational Testing Service, “The Family: America’s Smallest School,” says research has built an overwhelming case for the value of reading to young children.
By age 2 “children who are read to regularly display greater language comprehension, larger vocabularies and higher cognitive skills than their peers,” according to Child Trends, a leading research group. “Shared parent-child book reading during children’s preschool years leads to higher reading achievement in elementary school.”
Predictably, there is a strong link between a family’s socio-economic status and the amount of reading that goes on at home. The typical child of professional working parents is exposed to 45 million words by age 4, the child in a welfare family to about 13 million.
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