Thursday, September 23, 2010

Head of the Class

Libraries are Shaping Future Valedictorians

Straight A students aren't just the product of good genes, great teachers, superior school districts or hard-core study skills, although all of these certainly help kids. New research points to other factors that may impact kids' intelligence over the years.

Words make a difference. Babies raised among books obtain an average of three years more schooling than book free kids according to an Australian National University research. How this works is still being studied but several factors stand out. First, children of literature loving parents develop rich vocabularies through oral exposure to stories and books. This early exposure helps children develop cognitive skills.

Second, kids raised in a text rich environment know how to use a book. From the sounds of letters to the understanding of story structure toddlers exposed regularly to books are ready to learn to read earlier than their peers and will learn in every subject faster and with greater comprehension. Third, children who do not read well will have trouble learning every subject, from Art to Algebra. As they struggle to keep up, those who do read well can outpace them, until by graduation the best readers will have learned almost three years worth of information more than those on the lowest reading skill level.

This difference in exposure to words and books is expanding between economic classes. Children raised in lower class economic families are least likely to have books, magazines, newspapers and a computer in the home. Too often these families have to choose between paying rent or buying groceries, let alone choosing to subscribe to a magazine or order books from the book order that the teacher sends home from school. Children raised in these conditions are also less likely to be read to by a parent, less likely to spend quality time in conversation with an adult and less likely to be encouraged to complete assignments for school and be expected to excel in classes.

Thank goodness for the public library! We can provide every child with opportunity to see, feel, read and explore words through all these media. Parents can bring their child to the library regardless of economic status. It is interesting to see children as they come in, I can usually tell by their reaction to the activities offered in our library, how much exposure to books they have been getting outside the library. As years pass, teachers can predict a child's success or struggles based on their reading skills.

Want to read more of the research? Visit the ALA website and look for the Every Child Ready to Read program on the link: and click on the research tab.

Help your kid succeed, READ!
Michele, Children's Librarian

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