Parents often ask what they can do to help their children succeed – in school, and in life. They wonder if they should hire a tutor for academic support, sign their kids up for after-school sports and music lessons, or enroll them in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math), robotics or coding camps. There’s a much simpler recipe for success: encourage your children to read. Whatever. Whenever. Wherever.
Children who read for pleasure outperform their peers not only in tests of vocabulary and spelling, but also in mathematics. Reading for pleasure has even been shown to increase empathy and social emotional skills. Reading helps to decrease levels of stress in both children and adults.
In 2002, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) found that reading enjoyment is more important for children’s educational success than their family’s socio-economic status. Students who are avid readers tend to be more engaged at school, have better relationships with peers and family members and exhibit fewer behavioral problems at school than their non-reading classmates.
Mike Myatt, a leadership advisor to Fortune 500 CEOs and boards, as well as author of Hacking Leadership and Leadership Matters, states that, “all great leaders have one thing in common: they read voraciously.” While only 28% of Americans have read 11 or more books in the past year and 23% say they have not read even one book in that time, CEOs of Fortune 500 companies read an average of four to five books every month. And the habit of reading starts in childhood.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents read to their children, even infants, every day. Reading aloud fosters strong emotional bonds as well as supporting the development of language. Even when children are able to read independently, most educators recommend that parents continue to read books aloud with their kids: this practice builds vocabulary and enables parents to have meaningful conversations with their children about varied situations and values. In addition, reading aloud encourages close relationships between parents and children – and it’s fun for both!
How else can parents inspire their children to read? Most experts agree that the best thing parents can do is to read themselves. Let your kids see you read the newspaper each day, magazines at the doctor’s office, books on a variety of topics. If your kids don’t see that you value reading as a worthwhile activity, they won’t understand why you want them to read.
East Side resident and parent of four Karen Welser celebrates the end of every school year with a unique tradition: she takes her children to a local bookstore and allows each one to choose a book. This year, her kids, who range in age from 4 to 18, chose diverse titles from the picture book Princesses on the Run to the non-fiction A Concise History of Bosnia. The Welser children love choosing their books, and their mom enjoys seeing how their interests have grown over the years.
But you don’t have to take your kids shopping for books to support their interests and motivate them to read daily. There are several library branches easily accessible here on the East Side, and, as outlined below, the Providence Community Library is even bringing their new mobile library to neighborhoods around the city throughout the summer. Why not go choose some books together as a family?
For more information on this subject, the author recommends the book Reading Magic: Why Reading Aloud to Our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever by Mem Fox.
Help Put 15,000 Books in the Hands of RI Children
Books Are Wings is a nonprofit organization housed in the Hope Artiste Village with the mission of putting free books in the hands of children. Through their Book Party program, they target children ages 3–12 from lower income families, allowing them to choose their own books. These programs, held at schools, libraries, community housing developments and area parks, encourage motivation and help to foster a love of reading. Books Are Wings is seeking volunteers and donations (both literary and monetary) from area residents.
Providence Community Library Goes Mobile
The Providence Community Library (PCL) has been awarded $89,320 by United Way of Rhode Island (UWRI) as part of a renewable, three-year grant to support Summer Reading in the Schoolyard. The project will enable PCL’s existing mobile library to deliver summer reading opportunities to students who do not have access to regular library services. The mobile library will visit to selected PPSD elementary schools and City recreation centers regularly during the summer. Participating children will also be given public library cards as part of the city’s commitment to a national initiative, the ConnectED Library Challenge.
PCL’s mobile library, which will carry 4,000 books, will visit ten of PPSD’s 22 elementary schools once a week for eight weeks, as well as providing library services at summer and sports day camps operated by the City’s Recreation Department. On the East Side, the mobile library will visit Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary School on Friday mornings. www.ProvComLib.org/Summer
RIDE Publishes and PPSD Passes Policy on Transgender Youth
The Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) has developed and published guidance for Rhode Island schools on transgender and gender nonconforming students. The document includes summaries of pertinent federal and state laws, as well as information on best practices for school administration. Commissioner Ken Wagner stated in his newsletter, “Rhode Island has a strong history of encouraging safe and supportive environments for all children; this guidance is another tool to add to that body of work to support health, safety and educational opportunities for Rhode Island youth.”
Under the Providence Public School District (PPSD)’s new policy, transgender and gender expansive students may select the restroom or changing areas they use, including opting for private restrooms and separate changing areas. Each school will also establish a Transgender and Gender Expansive Student Point Team to provide individual support plans to students and their families. School board President Nicholas Hemond says, “The board felt it was important to recognize and honor the choices and the voices of our young people on this issue.” You can read the RIDE guidelines at thriveri.org/documents/Guidance.for.RhodeIsland.Schools.on.Transgender.and.Gender.Nonconforming.Students-2016.pdf.