Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Why Reading Books is Important

by Meredith Lord, Child Development Professional
Why do Americans eat so much fast food? "I just don't have the time to cook dinner." Why don't we exercise more? "I just don't have the time to commit to an exercise program." Why is my living room so messy? "I don't have enough time to clean up."
One thing that we all NEED to find time for is reading to our children for 20 minutes each day. According to the leading experts on this topic, here are the reasons why:
  • Children who read: succeed. The most significant part of a child's mental growth between the ages of three and seven is the ability to imagine. Books boost imagination. Our popular television culture degrades imagination.
  • TV and video are now our national babysitters. But a young child's growing mind needs active play and live conversation. Television puts a child into what neurologists call the passive Alpha state. A child cannot learn from screens because programs are meant to sell products not to teach.
  • Much like the first news about tobacco and cholesterol, early studies now link overdoses of TV, video games and pop music with learning disabilities, attention deficiency, speech defects and aggressive behavior.
  • Screen watching makes a child a follower and a consumer. Books exist because of the power of human ideas. Readers are leaders and producers.
  • After a tiring day nothing is more restful than reading with a child on your lap. Reading aloud offers a world of privacy, dignity, and love to both of you.
-From a speech by noted author/illustrator, Rosemary Wells.

Helping your child learn to read – A parent's guide

Why is it important for my child to read?

The ability to read is vital. It paves the way to success in school, which can build self-confidence and motivate your child to set high expectations for life.
People read for many reasons:
  • for pleasure and interest
  • for work
  • to obtain information that will help them make choices and decisions
  • to understand directions (such as those on street signs and in recipe books)
  • to learn about the world
  • to keep in touch with family and friends

How will my child learn to read?

Learning to read does not happen all at once. It involves a series of stages that lead, over time, to independent reading and to fluency.
The best time for children to start learning to read is when they are very young, usually at the preschool level. This is when they are best able to start developing basic reading skills.
The stages involved in learning to read are listed below.

1.  The pre-reader and the beginning reader:

  • likes to look at books and likes to be read to
  • likes to behave like a reader – for example, holds books and pretends to read them
  • learns about words by looking at picture books and playing with blocks that have letters on them, magnetic letters, and so on
  • learns about words from songs, rhymes, traffic signs, and logos on packages of food
  • learns how text works – for example, where a story starts and finishes and which way the print proceeds
  • begins to understand that his or her own thoughts can be put into print
  • uses pictures and memory to tell and retell a story

2.  The emerging reader:

  • is ready to receive instructions about reading
  • learns that text is a common way to tell a story or to convey information
  • begins to match written words to spoken words and to perceive relationships between sounds and letters
  • begins to experiment with reading, and is willing to try to say words out loud when reading simple texts
  • finds the pictures helpful in understanding the text, and learns that the words convey a message consistent with the pictures

3.  The early reader:

  • develops more confidence and uses a variety of methods, such as relying on visual cues, to identify words in texts
  • adapts his or her reading to different kinds of texts
  • recognizes many words, knows a lot about reading, and is willing to try new texts

4.  The fluent reader:

  • thinks of reading as a good thing and does it automatically
  • uses a variety of methods to identify words and their meanings
  • can read various kinds of texts and predict events in a story
  • relates the meaning of books to his or her own experience and knowledge, and understands what is new
It takes time to pass through each of these stages, and your child will need plenty of attention and support as he or she moves through them. You can play a leading role in helping your child acquire the reading skills he or she needs to succeed!

Improve Reading Speed and Comprehension

Go to for a free online speed reading software designed to improve your reading speed and comprehension.

Spreeder is a free service provided by 7-Speed-ReadingTM. If you like this site, please have a look at our powerful 7 Speed Reading Software.
Get started immediately by spreeding the following passage:
Speed reading is the art of silencing subvocalization. Most readers have an average reading speed of 200 wpm, which is about as fast as they can read a passage out loud. This is no coincidence. It is their inner voice that paces through the text that keeps them from achieving higher reading speeds. They can only read as fast as they can speak because that's the way they were taught to read, through reading systems like Hooked on Phonics.
However, it is entirely possible to read at a much greater speed, with much better reading comprehension, through silencing this inner voice. The solution is simple - absorb reading material faster than that inner voice can keep up.
In the real world, this is achieved through methods like reading passages using a finger to point your way. You read through a page of text by following your finger line by line at a speed faster than you can normally read. This works because the eye is very good at tracking movement. Even if at this point full reading comprehension is lost, it's exactly this method of training that will allow you to read faster.
With the aid of software like Spreeder, it's much easier to achieve this same result with much less effort. Load a passage of text (like this one), and the software will pace through the text at a predefined speed that you can adjust as your reading comprehension increases.
To train to read faster, you must first find your base rate. Your base rate is the speed that you can read a passage of text with full comprehension. We've defaulted to 300 wpm, showing one word at a time, which is about the average that works best for our users. Now, read that passage using spreeder at that base rate.
After you've finished, double that speed by going to the Settings and changing the Words Per Minute value. Reread the passage. You shouldn't expect to understand everything - in fact, more likely than not you'll only catch a couple words here and there. If you have high comprehension, that probably means that you need to set your base rate higher and rerun this test again. You should be straining to keep up with the speed of the words flashing by. This speed should be faster than your inner voice can "read".
Now, reread the passage again at your base rate. It should feel a lot slower (if not, try running the speed test again). Now try moving up to a little past your base rate (for example, 400 wpm), and see how much you can comprehend at that speed.
That's basically it - constantly read passages at a rate faster than you can keep up, and keep pushing the edge of what you're capable of. You'll find that when you drop down to lower speeds, you'll be able to pick up much more than you would have thought possible.
One other setting that's worth mentioning in this introduction is the chunk size, which is the number of words that are flashed at each interval on the screen. When you read aloud, you can only say one word at a time. This limit does not apply to reading - with practice, you can read multiple words at a time once your inner voice subsides. As your reading speed increases, this is the best way to achieve reading speeds of 1000+ wpm. Start small with 2 word chunk sizes, but as you increase you'll find that 3, 4, or even higher chunk sizes are possible.
Good luck!

The Art of Slow Reading

Has endlessly skimming short texts on the internet made us stupider? An increasing number of experts think so - and say it's time to slow down . .
slow reading
Is it time to slow our reading down? Photograph: Steve Caplin
If you're reading this article in print, chances are you'll only get through half of what I've written. And if you're reading this online, you might not even finish a fifth. At least, those are the two verdicts from a pair of recent research projects – respectively, the Poynter Institute's Eyetrack survey, and analysis by Jakob Nielsen – which both suggest that many of us no longer have the concentration to read articles through to their conclusion.
The problem doesn't just stop there: academics report that we are becoming less attentive book-readers, too. Bath Spa University lecturer Greg Garrard recently revealed that he has had to shorten his students' reading list, while Keith Thomas, an Oxford historian, has written that he is bemused by junior colleagues who analyse sources with a search engine, instead of reading them in their entirety.
So are we getting stupider? Is that what this is about? Sort of. According to The Shallows, a new book by technology sage Nicholas Carr, our hyperactive online habits are damaging the mental faculties we need to process and understand lengthy textual information. Round-the-clock news feeds leave us hyperlinking from one article to the next – without necessarily engaging fully with any of the content; our reading is frequently interrupted by the ping of the latest email; and we are now absorbing short bursts of words on Twitter and Facebook more regularly than longer texts.
Read the whole article at

8 Benefits of Reading (or Ways Reading Makes You Better at Life)

article by 


The public library is a phenomena that to this day I still can’t get over. Free knowledge, for anyone. Literally, anyone. I can’t think of an equivalent other than going to a clothing store, “checking out” an outfit, wearing the outfit and returning it in four weeks, free of charge.
Except books are so much better than clothes.
Recently I’ve been on a huge reading kick, checking out anything I can get my hands on in the library. (I’m writing a guest post onZenHabits to detail some of the best stuff I’ve found, so more on that later.)
I’ve found that no matter what I read, the act of reading every day has helped me in nearly every aspect of my life. Here are a few of my favorite ways that reading has improved my quality of life, and will definitely improve yours.

1. Enhanced Smarts

Wow, this may be the most obvious statement of the post, right? Well, it turns out that reading helps in almost every area of smarts. Those that read have higher GPA’s, higher intelligence, and general knowledge than those that don’t. In Anne E. Cunningham’s paper What Reading Does for the Mind (pdf version), she found that reading, in general, makes you smarter, and it keeps you sharp as you age.
No matter what you’re wanting to do or become, you can’t do it without more knowledge. Reading is an excellent way to get where you’re wanting to go.

2. Reading reduces stress

When I’m reading a book, my mind shifts gears. Where I might have a had a stressful day, a book can easily distract me. Fiction is fantastic for this. Reading an awesome fiction book is perfect right before bed time. Though sometimes it’s hard to put the book down if it’s really good. Still, you’ll be relaxed ;)

3. Greater tranquility

Reading can soothe like no other. Given that I’m a pretty high-energy person, reading forces me to sit and be still. This daily act of making myself be quiet and still has been nothing short of miraculous for my anxiety and my “fidgety factor”.

4. Improved analytical thinking

That’s right, ladies and germs. Cunningham’s studies have found that analytical thinking is boosted by reading. Readers improve their general knowledge, and more importantly are able to spot patterns quicker. If you can spot patterns quicker, your analytical skills receive a boost.

5. Increased vocabulary

It’s no secret that reading increases your vocabulary and improves your spelling, but did you know that reading increases your vocabulary more than talking or direct teaching? Reading forces us to look at words that we might not have seen or heard recently at the pub. In fact, language in children’s books are likely to be more sophisticated than your average conversation.
Increased vocabulary is especially crucial for bloggers or writers. All successful writers will tell you that in order to write well, you need to read. Every day. You’ll be surprised at the words you start incorporating into your writing.
A beefier vocabulary isn’t just for writers though. Knowing what other people are saying and using the perfect words to convey your feelings is a critical part of being a better human. Better listeners are more successful in life.

Reading Aloud to Kids: The 12 Benefits of Reading Books Out Loud to Children of All Ages

Reading aloud to children is one of the most important things you can do to ensure their future success, and more and more Americans seem to be jumping on the read-aloud bandwagon. While only 78 percent of families read to their pre-kindergarten-aged children frequently (three or more times a week) in 1993, this increased to 86 percent in 2005, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
read to your kids
It's never too early to start reading to your kids. Experts recommend starting as soon as they're born.
Kids of all ages (and adults, too) benefit from being read to, including even babies and toddlers.
"Children are never too young to have stories read to them," says Nancy Verhoek-Miller, a specialist in early childhood education at Mississippi State University.
The benefits are so profound, and kids form so much of their intelligence potential during the early years of their life, that experts recommend reading aloud to your child as soon as he or she is born, and continuing indefinitely.
Why Read to Your Kids? Here are 12 Important Reasons
"The single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children," a Commission on Reading report found.
In fact, reading is so important that a non-profit group called Read Aloud America is traveling to different schools to promote literacy, encourage a love of reading in adults and children, and increase children's prospects for success in school and life.
reading to your kids
Not only will reading to your child help him develop language and listening skills, and a sense of curiosity, but it will help to strengthen the bond you share as well.
Their Read Aloud Program (RAP) brings together kids and families at host schools to stimulate their interest in reading, decrease television viewing, increase family time spent in reading activities, and connect the values of good books to everyday life. Although the program is currently only offered in Hawaii, you can gain the same benefits from reading to your kids at home.
Here are 12 of the key reasons to start (or continue) reading aloud to your kids today.
  1. Build a lifelong interest in reading. "Getting kids actively involved in the process of reading, and having them interact with adults, is key to a lifelong interest in reading," said BeAnn Younker, principal at Battle Ground Middle School in Indiana.
  2. Children whose parents read to them tend to become better readers and perform better in school, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
  3. Reading to kids helps them with language and speech development.
  4. It expands kids' vocabulary and teaches children how to pronounce new words.
  5. Reading to toddlers prepares them for school, during which they will need to listen to what is being said to them (similar to what they do while being read to).
  6. Reading to older kids helps them understand grammar and correct sentence structure.
  7. Kids and parents can use reading time as bonding time. It's an excellent opportunity for one-on-one communication, and it gives kids the attention they crave.
  8. Being read to builds children's attention spans and helps them hone their listening skills.
  9. Curiosity, creativity and imagination are all developed while being read to.
  10. Being read to helps kids learn how to express themselves clearly and confidently.
  11. Kids learn appropriate behavior when they're read to, and are exposed to new situations, making them more prepared when they encounter these situations in real life.
  12. When read to, children are able to experience the rhythm and melody of language even before they can understand the spoken or printed word.
More on reading aloud at article by
    Top Recommended Read-Aloud Books
    Want to read aloud with your kids but not sure what to read? Here are some of the top picks out there for kids of all ages.
    Treasure Hunt Toddlers
    Treasure Hunt by Allan Ahlberg
    Young readers can play along as little Tilly plays treasure-hunting games with her parents.
    Night of the Moonjellies Kindergarten/1st Grade
    Night of the Moonjellies by Mark Shasha
    A picture book that describes a child's summer day in New England.
    Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2nd/3rd Grade
    Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett In the town of ChewandSwallow, breakfast, lunch and dinner rain down from the sky ... but then things start to get messy.
    Stand Tall 4th/5th Grade
    Stand Tall by Joan Bauer
    Tree is 12 years old and already 6 foot, 3 inches tall, but it's his parents' divorce, not his height, that makes his life really complicated.
    The Tiger Rising 6th -- 8th Grade
    The Tiger Rising by Kate Dicamillo
    Rob has just lost his mother, and moved to a new town with his father, when he discovers a caged tiger in the woods. The find ends up opening many doors for the grief-stricken boy in this emotional and symbolic story.
    Watership Down 9th -- 12th Grade
    Watership Down by Richard Adams
    An epic tale that follows a warren of Berkshire rabbits fleeing the destruction of their home by a land developer.

    Why A Book Is the Perfect Gift this Christmas

    A THIRD of the UK's under-16s do not own a book, according to a new National Literacy Trust survey.
    So almost four million kids are growing up without knowing the joy of reading.
    Here ex-Children's Laureate Michael Rosen tells why literature is so vital to youngsters – and why books make the ideal gift.

    "MANY families are pulling in their belts this year and not spending as much on presents. The wonderful thing with books is they make great gifts — you can get one for under a tenner and they can be made personal to the child.
    Call ... Michael Rosen
    Call ... Michael Rosen
    "When I was little I had lots of books bought for me and it's been wonderful to pass some of them down through the family.
    "I've still got some of my mum's original Beatrix Potter stories. The Tale Of Squirrel Nutkin has "Love, Mum" in the front of it — from hermum. This personal touch shows you've really thought about the recipient.
    "To understand the world, it's vital to understand writing.
    "We know that if a child has lots of books, magazines and comics, they will succeed at school and for the rest of their lives.
    "The University of Nevada found that by reading to your kids regularly you are giving them the equivalent of an extra two or three years of school.
    "A child should have loads of books to choose from. It is vital that kids get to browse material. By doing so they are making their own selections and forming opinions which will help them at school.
    "Parents must remember it's not their job to teach kids to read, it is to encourage them to love books. Teachers will do the teaching.
    "When your child wants to talk about a book, treasure that moment. Your child is talking about something that matters to them. By talking to them about it, you're helping to expand their brain even more.
    And when you give a child a book at Christmas, it's a gift they can open again and again."

    Read the whole article at