All you need is 20 minutes a day to set your child up for a lifetime of success: Many experts believe that reading to your child for this amount of time daily is enough to boost their literacy skills and foster a lifelong love of reading.
When you read to your child, you are helping them form relationships between words and sounds that lead to language fluency. Plus, time spent together will deepen your bond: You’ll better understand your child’s feelings, what they think about, and what they’re interested in. When you read, ask your child questions about the text; this supports their reading comprehension skills.
While 15 minutes of reading a day is the minimum experts recommend, it's ideal to aim for 20 minutes.
"Think of 15 minutes as a floor amount, not the ceiling, and encourage increased reading stamina the way you might with other forms of healthy exercise — aiming for more than 20 minutes," says Karen Baicker, Executive Director of the Yale Child Study Center–Scholastic Collaborative for Child & Family Resilience, and Publisher for Family and Community Engagement (FACE) at Scholastic Education Solutions.
Your family’s 20 minutes of daily reading doesn’t need to be at night, although 87 percent of parents read to their children just before bed, according to the Scholastic Kids & Family Reading Report. Find a time that works for you and your child to enjoy reading. Perhaps that’s over breakfast or before dinner.
If your family is always on the go, pack some books or other reading material in the car so you can read wherever you are — it’s what these parents of book lovers do every day to ensure their child can get those 20 minutes in.
If your child is old enough to read independently, plan to read together in the same room. Being a constant model for them shows you are interested in reading, and your child will be motivated by this to adopt the behavior.
You can rotate reading roles so your child has the chance to practice their fluency and pronunciation — especially multisyllabic words, which can be tricky even for upper elementary school students.
For example, this parent of a 9-year-old uses her family read-aloud as an opportunity to introduce more complex texts to her children, who read independently on other nights of the week.
Below are more suggestions for organizing a successful “Family 20” reading session. Before you know it, you'll have stronger readers and more interesting conversations together.
5 Tips for Fitting in Your "Family 20" Reading Session
1. First things first: Make sure everyone is on board! This must be a whole family event, scheduled at a time that works for everyone. (This is how habitual behaviors are best created.)
2. Tell your child that what you're doing is called the “Family 20" and it will make them smarter, stronger, and more exciting people.
3. When you’ve agreed on a day and time that works, instruct everyone to turn off their phones and grab the reading material of their choice (be it a book, magazine, or newspaper). Then read, read, read!
4. Consider having a basket of books nearby if your readers want to switch up their selections. Add snacks!
5. After 20 minutes, quickly share what each of you have read before carrying on with your day. ("If possible, avoid setting timers, which can suggest that reading is a chore to get through," Baicker says.)
There’s strength in numbers. After initiating the “Family 20,” you may be pleasantly surprised how quickly afterward kids will request a second session — and how soon those 20 minutes morph into 30 or 45 minutes.
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