Over at The Miss Rumphius Effect, Tricia just shared some results from the National Center for Education Statistics report America's Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being. You can (and should) read the details at Tricia's, but the gist is that in 2005, only "60 percent of children ages 3–5 who were not yet in kindergarten were read to daily by a family member", and the exact percentage was highly correlated with other socioeconomic factors. Tricia says: "The fact that 40% of children in this country were NOT read to every day is very discouraging." And she asks an important question:
"how do we reach out to folks who don't read blogs, or much of anything else, and get them to understand how incredibly important reading to children is, and what a long-term impact this practice (or lack of it) makes?"
Jill T. and I were talking about this a little bit over in the comments on this post at The Well-Read Child. I also wrote earlier today about an opinion piece in The Age (Australia) with some big picture ideas for governments. I wrote last January, in an article about a talk that I heard by read-aloud advocate Jim Trelease that:
"He (Trelease) suggested that we need some sort of national campaign to inform people all over the country of the importance of exposing their kids to more words every day, and encouraging them to enjoy reading. He gave an analogy to the campaign that was used to successfully cut the incidence of smoking in this country by 50% over 40 years, a combination of informing people, scaring people, and insulting people, and thinks that we need to try something similar in American homes re: reading."
I think that programs that give books to newborn babies before they leave the hospital, and the Read Out and Read program that gives books to kids on their well-baby visits, are steps in the right direction. As are programs like First Book and Dolly Parton's Imagination Library and Cops 'N Kids, that give books to kids.
But what else can we do? How do we reach people with this message that so many of us understand is critically important? Is there anything that we, as ordinary citizens, can do, besides supporting the above organizations? What I want to do is jump up and down and tell people: "Just read to your kids. Every day. Here are some books for you. Keep on reading to them for as long as they'll let you. We'll find you some more books as they get older." And I pretty much do that with people I know in the real world, and with people who read my blog. But, like Tricia, I wonder how to reach more people with the message. Different people. People who really need to hear it.
Sadly, I don't have any answers right now. But thanks for making me think, Tricia. Readers, if you have any thoughts on this, please share them here or over at Tricia's. Thanks!
© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.