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It’s As Easy As ABC

It’s As Easy As ABC It’s As Easy As ABC

By Dr. Sarah A. Ruff

It’s that time of year again, the hustle and bustle of back-to-school shopping, the yearning to stretch out those summer nights just a little longer, and the anticipation of the possibilities of a brand-new school year. I like to think of the beginning of the school year as a new opportunity to look at the potential that each child has to change their life’s trajectory. It may look like a difficult thing to do, after all changing the course of your life seems like a big deal, but in fact, it is as simple as ABC.

You see, research shows that reading for just 20 minutes a day can change the course of a child’s life. By reading 20 minutes a day, children are exposed to more than 1.8 million words per year! Reading creates connections in the brain that promote language, cognitive, social, and emotional development. Not only that, but the University of Liverpool found that reading for a short period of time every day can relieve stress and prevent depression.

OK, so we know that reading is important, but why 20 minutes? A study conducted by Harvard University found that children who read of 5 minutes per day were more likely to score in the 50th percentile or below on standardized tests like MAP. The same study showed that students who read for 15 minutes per day achieved accelerated reading gains and were more likely to score in the 75th percentile and be less likely to fall behind their peers. Students who read for at least 20 minutes per day were more likely to score in the 90th percentile! Increased access to college, scholarships, job opportunities, hink about the possibilities your child can have just from reading!

Still not convinced, well what if I told you that reading before bed helps your child to fall asleep faster? Many times, parents send their child to bed with a phone or tablet to help calm them down and get them ready for bed, but this can have the opposite effect of your intention for a little bit of peace and quiet. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that screentime is cut off at least one hour before bedtime. Screentime before bed can lead to insomnia or fewer minutes of sleep per night. When a child does not get enough sleep, they are at an increased risk for obesity, difficult temperament, increased tantrums, problemswith self-regulation, and social-emotional delays. Reading, on the other hand, has the opposite effects. Reading encourages relaxation. When your child’s body is relaxed, they will find it much easier to fall asleep which allows their body to start to repair from the day and continue to grow.

So how can you help your child to become a reader. This part is a lot easier than it sounds. First, you can start by talking to them about books that you liked to read as a child. Maybe you remember sitting in Kindergarten with your favorite teacher listening to her read Dr. Seuss’ The Cat in the Hat, or maybe you loved reading the Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling? Talking to your child about the books that you loved will help them to make a connection to reading. Finding books that your child likes can be easy too! Make it a special outing to head over to the Roosevelt County Library and get a library card. They are free! Then, your child can wander around and choose books that look interesting to them. Choice is an important part of falling in love with reading. If you need help, the librarians would love to help you and your child find something that is right for them.

Speaking of librarians, some of the smartest people in your child’s schoolwork in the library, you can reach out to them to see if they would work with your child to find something in the school library that they would love to read at home.

You can also find great books at the Dollar Store and Albertsons if you are looking for something to give your child as a treat when you are out shopping.

If heading to the library or buying books at the store is not an option, you can access lots of reading material right from your own home! Your student may prefer to read a book on their tablet, or even listen to a book instead of reading the print version. Listening to books can be just as beneficial as reading them in print and technology has made it possible to access many audio books for free. There are apps like Libby, which connects you to a library and give you access to millions of books in audio and visual form. Barnes and Noble, Amazon and Open Library also have hundreds of free books for you to download for free.

The benefits of reading for just 20 minutes a day can change your child’s life. As you move into this next school year and you are setting up new routines, I encourage you to make reading one of those routines. It may be a little tough at first, but there are plenty of people to help you. Reach out to your child’s teacher, the school or local librarian or even your health care provider for help and encouragement as you build a reading routine. Just think, this could be the one small change that sparks the imagination and makes your child the next community leader, astronaut, doctor or President of the United States!

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