Thoughtful Parenting: Studies confirm — reading to your child is essential |

Thoughtful Parenting: Studies confirm — reading to your child is essential

Kate Nowak/For the Steamboat Pilot & Today

The daily ritual of snuggling and reading with your little one pays off big time in education success later on.  Many parents understand the importance of daily reading to their child, particularly from birth to age 5.  According to Harvard University’s Center on the Developing Child, 90 percent of the human brain is developed by the time a child reaches age 5.  Vocabulary and alphabet recognition start very early in a child’s life.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, a division of the U.S. Department of Education, children who are read to at home enjoy a substantial advantage in school and career success over children who are not.

Twenty-six percent of children who were read to frequently — defined as three to four times per week — by a family member recognized all letters of the alphabet. This is compared to only 14 percent of children who were read to less frequently.

The NCES also reported that children who were read to frequently are also more likely to be able to do the following.

  • Count to 20 or higher, than those who were not — 60 versus 44 percent.
  • Write their own names — 54 versus 40 percent.
  • Read or pretend to read — 77 versus 57 percent.
  • Furthermore, according to NCES, only 53 percent of children age 3 to 5 were read to daily by a family member (1999). Children in families with incomes below the poverty line are even less likely to be read to aloud everyday than are children in families with incomes at or above poverty level.
  • And finally, the more types of reading materials that there are in the home, the higher students perform in reading proficiency, according to the Educational Testing Service.

Fortunately, Women United, an affinity group of Routt County United Way, is aware of these statistics and aims to improve our children’s literacy preparedness for kindergarten.  Women United launched the Dolly Parton Imagination Library in January and has successfully registered 478 Routt County children to date.  Women United realizes that further outreach is still needed, as the US Census tells us there are 1,350 children between birth and age 5 in Routt County.

The Imagination Library is a free program for Routt County families to register their children under age 5 to receive a book in the mail, addressed to the child, each month until they turn 5.  Registration is available on the Routt County United Way website at, or registration forms are available at all libraries in Routt County. This is an easy way for families of any income level to have plenty of reading materials available in the home to read with their children. The most important component, of course, is that the parent creates a daily ritual of reading to their child.

Currently enrolled parents have commented positively on the program, noting that the Imagination Library provides a variety of books for their children to read, books that they might not have even chosen for their child.  Many parents also comment how much their children love the Imagination Library books, so much so that their child carries the book around the house all day.

Kate Nowak is the executive director of Routt County United Way and a Women United member. Nowak can be reached at 970-879-5605 or

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