Every subject in school is important. Whether it’s math, science, history, social studies, or English, the knowledge students gain in elementary school will be referenced and used the rest of their lives. However, of all the important subjects just mentioned, only one is a crucial component of them all: English. 

Students must be able to read their textbooks and be able to convey their thoughts clearly to teachers and other students when communicating in any class. And the best way for young students to gain knowledge—and, therefore, get good grades—in any subject is through reading comprehension. 

Reading isn’t important only for those in school; it’s important throughout life. The reading habits children develop in the elementary grades will shape their ability to read for a lifetime. 

Reading = Success

Here are some statistics that parents of school-age children should take a moment to reflect on:

  • Of those making less than $30K per year, 36 percent have not read a book in the last year.
  • Of those making more than $75K per year, only 13 percent have not read a book in the last year. 
  • Of those with a high school diploma or less, 37 percent have not read a book in the last year.
  • Of those with at least a bachelor’s degree, only 7 percent have not read a book in the last year. 

One can look at those numbers and think they indicate that those who make less money or have less education read less, and while that may be true, the cause-and-effect are actually the reverse. What the statistics say is this: those who read more will get farther in school and make more money than those who read less. 

Studies indicate that developing good reading skills and habits at an early age can translate directly into achieving greater success in life. Here are three examples:

  • Bill Gates reads about 50 books a year. 
  • Mark Cuban reads more than three hours every day.
  • Mark Zuckerberg resolved to read a book every two weeks.

The odds are that, while typical grade schoolers may have a lot on their plate, they’re probably not quite as busy as the three entrepreneurs listed above. If those guys have time to read, an elementary school student should also be able to find the time. 

The earlier a child learns to read and master comprehension, the better. Studies show that students who lack good reading skills in the third grade are four times more likely to dropout of school, and 85% of all juvenile offenders have reading problems. Every parent wants their child to have a rewarding life, and parents can play a critical role in helping to increase their child’s chance of future success. How?  

How Parents Can Help

Although they may not always be conscious of it, kids love to imitate their parents. Parents are the models that children look to when forming their likes, dislikes, opinions, and habits. For example, parents who smoke will likely have children who smoke; and parents who don’t read will likely have children who don’t read

To increase the chances that your child will have a bright future and successful life, parents need to set the example; however, that doesn’t mean that parents need to spend all their free time reading in the hope their child will follow suit. The best way to set an example is to show an interest in and become involved in whatever your child is reading. That can be a multi-step process. 

Listen First, Read Later

There are many students who feel reading is a chore rather than something that can be fun and pleasurable. It can be a challenge to get a child to see the fun in reading. A good introduction to the joy that reading can bring is not to have your child read a book, but to have someone read a book to them. Think back to when you were young—didn’t you love being read to?  

The website Storyline Online provides a huge selection of children’s books, with each book read by someone well-known in their field, many of whom are actors your child may recognize. Sit with your child, browse through all the books, and let them pick a book or two they’d like to hear. After listening to the book, take a few moments to engage in a relaxed, no-pressure discussion about the plot, the characters, or the story’s theme. 

Discussion after the story is an important component that shouldn’t be overlooked. A child will find stories more enjoyable if they understand or can identify with the main character. Good questions for discussion are:

  • Who is the main character?
  • What are the characters trying to accomplish? What is their goal?
  • What is motivating them to achieve that goal? 
  • Did the main character encounter any barriers in reaching the goal? 
  • How did the character overcome those barriers? 
  • What lesson was learned at the end? 

A child will not only learn to recognize those elements in stories, but they will learn to recognize those elements in their own lives, applying the lessons they learn to solving problems which they may encounter. 

Reading Together

Once your child has become interested in hearing stories, make the transition to reading stories by suggesting that you read together and take turns reading aloud. Once your child has picked out a book, one can read even numbered pages and the other odd pages. Or, act out the story, by each taking a character to read aloud. 

The goal is to make reading fun, and to encourage children to read for pleasure. They may prefer to read a comic book or “Mad Libs” or one of the “I Spy” books. As long as the material is something they’ve chosen and they enjoy, parents should support the decision. You can always guide your child into choosing something a little more challenging later on. 

If children view reading as a punishment, or if the material is boring, your child will make that association throughout their lives and they’ll avoid reading. If reading is associated with positive feelings, that, too, will last a lifetime and reading will always be enjoyable. 

Read for Free

There are many sites that provide free books that families can read online: 

  • Library of Congress – Classic books online for children of all ages
  • StoryJumper – A self-publishing site with books for younger readers, many of which have audio
  • International Children’s Library – Books in a variety of languages, the advanced search will find your book
  • Open Library – More than 20,000 books for children, from “The Wizard of Oz” to “Harry Potter.”

Parents, your children admire you and want to imitate the things you do. You can play such an important role in providing positive reading experiences that can lead to a more fulfilling life for your child. Being a good reader can help your child achieve success in adulthood and help them realize their dreams. 

Start reading with your child today. There’s no time to lose.