In today’s world with all its electronic gadgets such as iPads, iPods, Xboxes, DS game systems and the like, it is probably harder than ever for parents to promote reading in the home.
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the average child spends about seven hours a day either watching television or surfing the Internet or playing an electronic gadget.
No doubt, these children are computer literate, many of the games and apps for the various gadgets are educational and they are a great source of entertainment.
However, one big disadvantages of spending all that time on electronics is that it takes away from some very important real life practical skills such as reading.
It’s highly unlikely that children today trade comic books back and forth like we did in my generation back in the 60s. Comic books are still on the go today of course but, back in the day, they were very important to young readers.
In this modern world, then, it is more important than ever that parents promote reading and literacy skills in the home.
According to the National Center for Learning Disabilities, children raised in homes that promote family literacy grow up to be better readers and do better in school than children raised in homes where literacy is not promoted.
Literacy BC says that research shows children have a better chance of becoming fully literate adults if reading is encouraged in the home.
There are many other reasons for promoting literacy in the home to children, even those at a very young age.
Many people believe that literacy skills only revolve around reading but the fact is family literacy refers to the many ways families develop and use literacy skills.
These ways can involve enjoying a storybook at bedtime, playing word games, singing, writing and making a shopping list or using a recipe. Yes, it can also involve surfing the Internet for fun and interesting sites.
And this is where Family Literacy Day comes in each year in Canada. The special day is set-aside on January 27 to raise awareness of the importance of reading and engaging in other literacy-related activities as a family.
On January 27 Canada celebrated its 16th Family Literacy Day with millions of kids and parents across the country that took part in a variety of activities such as reading circles, literacy-themed contests and family game nights.
The theme of this year’s event was “15 Minutes of Fun”. Taking just 15 minutes a day to promote can play a major role in a child’s development. Even just that small amount of time each day can tremendously improve a child’s literacy skills.
And why do we need to keep on promoting reading skills in Canada?
Now, more than ever before, we live in a global village that includes countries that are already starting to surpass Canadians in math skills. We cannot afford to fall back in our reading skills as other strong economic countries are improving their academic programs in schools.
According to FamilyLiteracyDay.ca, four out of 10 adult Canadians, age 16 to 65, which represents 9 million Canadians, have serious problems with reading, writing and math. These Canadians are referred to as having “low literacy skills” today. We can be as politically correct as we want to be, but it doesn’t hide the fact that this is a serious problem in this country.
So, it’s important to promote literacy for academic and economic reasons.
It’s also important for social reasons too as family literacy can provide fun activities that the entire family can share together.
Learning to love to read starts at an early age and often starts at home.
Learning to love to read is one of the key reasons to promote family literacy.
Even though most people may not read as much as people did previously, reading is still one of the greatest pleasures in life. Getting lost in a good book is a great experience for young children and adults alike.
When should parents start promoting literacy at home?
Nancy Larrick, a famous American educator said, in her book “A Parent’s Guide to Children’s Reading” that average children can learn to read just as they learn to talk. Surround young children with books; read to them and often it just flows from there.
The point is that parents can still promote literacy in the home and instill a love of reading in their children. Despite all the changes in our lives let’s hope that the enjoyment of reading a good book will always be a part of people’s lives.
Editor’s note: The title of this editorial is taken from a song written by Gary Fjellgaard, one of Canada’s best singer/songwriters. It’s from a song called “Heroes” which goes: When I was young I used to trade my comic books and homemade guns; And little cowboys on the run were killers just like me; We’d hang those dirty outlaws high on rawhide rope of binder twine; Red Ryder was a friend of mine, a hero just for me.