The importance of reading to your children

  • Hancock Elementary School kindergarten students read more than 66 books, enough to stretch from one end of the Multipurpose Room to the other, during the district's Read Across America participation this month. Courtesy photo

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 3/24/2021 4:37:45 PM

With kindergarten signups taking place at school districts around the region and local libraries continuing to promote the 1000 Books Before Kindergarten program, local educators and library staff stressed the importance of early literacy in children and the difference it can make.

For Katherine Lescarbeau, a kindergarten teacher at Antrim Elementary School, it’s pretty clear at the start of each school year which students have been exposed to books on a regular basis and those that have not.

“When kids come in with that background knowledge, it’s very apparent when they start learning,” she said.

Lescarbeau has been teaching at AES for the last five years and she said children that have been read to at home clearly have a head start in language and literacy development. She said those students are motivated to read and in turn learn how to read, so they can bring that skill home and share with their families

Importance of early literacy

Early exposure to words is so important to starting the educational process, Lescarbeau said.

“Everything in our world has words,” she said. “Words tell us things.”

Lescarbeau said that in kindergarten, books are used to introduce a new topic and a way for students to get a better understanding of a more complex topic.

“It’s a great way to start conversations that are more abstract for them,” she said.

Books create connections on many levels, Lescarbeau said, and the more children are read to the more they retain. She sees some that can almost recite books they’ve seen before and it builds an excitement toward learning to read.

“Reading is not just to read, but it’s to understand,” Lescarbeau said.

She has seen that students who have exposure to books come in knowing a lot of their letters and some that can even read. Those who have not been read to consistently have trouble deciphering the difference between letters and numbers.

Allison Maher, a kindergarten/first grade teacher at Rindge Memorial School, said when students start kindergarten, the combination of new environment and adapting to structured learning is a lot, so anything that can be done to give them a leg up is crucial.

“You can definitely tell the households where books are being read and a lot of language is being used,” Maher said.

Mason Elementary School kindergarten teacher Sue Rysnik said reading to young children is critical to early literacy,

“The reading is not only important for exposure to text and pictures, but it’s also so critical for language development,” Rysnik said. “Children who have the greater vocabulary earlier tend to do better academically down the road.”

Expectations

Lescarbeau said that by the time students finish their kindergarten year, the goal is for them to be reading three to four letter words and have a strong understanding of at least 40 of the 100 Fry Sight Words.

“That seems like an awful lot for kids just coming to school,” she said. “But reading gives them a lot of background knowledge.”

Maher said the learning in kindergarten is fast and furious, so a lot is expected early on. One thing books does it allows children to recognize that letters look different in various fonts and sizes.

While first grade is where reading is really expected to take off, creating a strong foundation in kindergarten is so important, Maher said.

1000 Books

The 1000 Books Before Kindergarten is simple: every child should either read or be read 1000 books before they begin school. It doesn’t have to be 1000 different books. The same book can be read over and over again.

“Things that have repetition or a pattern are great at the beginning,” Rysnik said. “Memorization is the first step in the reading process.”

If you child wants to read “Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See?” every night before bed, Rysnik said do it.

“It’s all about your child’s interests,” she said. “They’ll go to the books they have a connection with.”

And if you really think about it, 1000 books is not a lot over the course of five years, the age children can enter kindergarten. According to the 1000 Books Before Kindergarten website, if you read just one book a night, you will have read more than 1,000 books in three years.

“If you read one book a day, it can pile up quickly,” Rysnik said.

Maher is a huge fan of the 1000 Books Before Kindergarten program.

“I absolutely think it’s a great program,” Maher said. “I think it’s huge.”

Rysnik said the 1000 Books program is fabulous and really hits on the importance of early literacy.

“It makes such a difference,” she said. “Without question.”

Because it’s not just about the words on the page.

“There’s so many things going on when you sit down and read a book to your child,” Rysnik said. They ask questions, learn how to anticipate what is coming and teaches valuable lessons.

“No matter what book you read, there’s almost always a lesson,” she said.

Libraries

Librarians love when children take an interest in reading, so any program that promotes early literacy must be a staple in the programming.

Every library does theirs a little different, but the end goal is to read all those books. Families are given empty tally sheets to fill out and after 100, 200, 300 books and so on, the sheets are turned in resulting in a recognition.

Rebecca Brown, the circulation and outreach coordinator at the Wilton Public & Gregg Free Library, said they have hosted the program the last handful of years and “its been pretty popular.”

“We have a number of kids that completed it,” Brown said. “Some start when they’re babies, some start when they’re four.”

She loves the simplicity of the program.

“It’s about literacy and just a love of books,” Brown said. “We want it to be simple and fun, so kids can get early literacy skills.”

Brown said they kicked off a new session of the program earlier this month, but families can start at any point.

“It’s open ended. Just finish it before kindergarten,” she said. 

Laurie Cass-Griggs, youth services librarian at the James A. Tuttle Library in Antrim, said hosting the program is just another avenue to get more people into the library.

“It’s promoting early literacy and an opportunity to become a lifelong reader,” Cass-Griggs said. “It’s exposing them to books and making them part of their lives.”

Cass-Griggs said it is popular and get quite a few families to sign up and complete it.

“They can do any kind of reading,” she said. “Anything is an option.”

Making it routine

Maher said an easy way to introduce learning is to make it something that is done at bedtime or a certain part of the day. And it doesn’t have to be just be sitting down with a book. It could be done on walks around the neighborhood or rides in the car, telling stories about what is seen. Any introduction and consistent exposure to language will go a long way.

“It’s more about the storytelling,” Maher said. “Keep it organic would be my message. Just read to your kids, talk to your kids.”

She said another key is taking the time when reading books. Look at the pictures and point out words that correspond with an element of the artwork.

“They may not have any knowledge of the words, but one of the ways to read a story is with the pictures,” she said.

Rysnik said it’s important to just talk to your children, expose them to new words.

“Those who live in a language rich atmosphere, it really does make a difference,” she said.

Kindergarten registration

To sign you child up for kindergarten, they must turn five years old before Sept. 30 of that school year.

In the ConVal School District, kindergarten registration for all nine towns will continue on Monday, April 5, 2 and Wednesday, April 7, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Call Kate Wasserloos at (603) 924-7503 ext. 2032 to schedule an appointment time. Visit https://convalsd.net/conval-kindergarten-registration-for-2021-2022/ for more.

In Jaffrey-Rindge, the deadline for registration is March 31. For a list of required documents and forms, visit http://www.sau47.org/jaffrey-grade-school-k-reg for Jaffrey Grade School and http://www.sau47.org/rms-k-reg for Rindge Memorial.

Kindergarten registration for Highbridge Hill Elementary School in the Mascenic School District is ongoing. Call the school at (603) 878-4387 or visit http://www.mascenic.org/index.php/home/hhes for more

Registration for Mason Elementary School is ongoing through April 22. To register, visit the school between 9 a.m. and 3:30 p.m., email hdelorme@sau89.org or call the school 878-2962. Registration paperwork can be found on the school’s website, http://mason.sau89.org/.

Kindergarten registration continues through May 7 for the Wilton-Lyndeborough District. Call Lyndeborough Central School at (603) 732-9228 with any questions. Visit https://www.sau63.org/ for more.


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