Penn State's online magazine, Research Penn State, featured an article today about "What Helps Children Learn to Read?". The article was written by Lisa Duchene, and features Robert Stevens, an associate professor of educational psychology in the Penn State College of Education and Barbara Van Horn, co-director of the Goodling Institute for Research in Family Literacy.
As we've heard from various other sources (especially The Read-Aloud Handbook), Professor Stevens says that "(r)eading to their children is one of the most important things parents can do to help them learn to read—and learn to love reading." He also advises asking questions while reading to children, and playing word and rhyming games.
Ms. Van Horn contributes the suggestion of reading non-fiction as well as fiction. "Stories are great, but reading expository books about, say, dinosaurs or bugs or how to build something is also very important," she says. This coincides with a suggestion made today by Camille from BookMoot, in a comment on this site. Camille recommended the DK Eyewitness book series for younger kids (Ocean, Ancient Rome, Weather, etc.) "because they incorporate multiple reading levels". I had an experience reading those books to a friend's five-year-old son last year, and he was utterly fascinated. So I think that this makes sense, although I was never much of a non-fiction reader myself as a kid.
Back to the article, Professor Stevens adds that "it is clear that even at very young ages children need exposure to expository text because that is the primary type of reading they do from grade six through college and beyond." Of course, we're trying to change this, by helping to raise kids who love to read all sorts of books. But I see his point.
But head on over to Research Penn State to read the entire article. You might also want to visit the Gooding Institute for Research in Family Literacy, where there are various studies ongoing concerning family literacy. It's great to see so much research in this area. Thanks for reading! -- Jen
© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.