Carla Benini is the Public Affairs Officer at the U.S. Consulate Hyderabad. As a mother of three, she is an ardent supporter of reading among children.
The Consulate just wrapped up a busy, yet fulfilling weekend of activities focused on the importance of reading. Partnering with four learning centers around the city – Saptaparni in Banjara Hills, Little People Tree in Secunderabad, Gachibowli’s Kaleidoscope and Treasure House in Jubilee Hills – Americans and Indians joined in the fun as we read books together, watched a Wizard of Oz puppet show, wrote our own Dr. Seuss-like rhymes and learned more about creative writing.
As I read one of my personal, tongue-twisting favorites, Fox in Socks, and listened to the classic, Harry the Dirty Dog, I witnessed children being transported to a world of fantasy that books so often take us to. And it wasn’t only the kids who sat transfixed by these stories. I watched plenty of their parents laughing along with us as we enjoyed the stories together.
I visited as many of the activities as I could over the weekend and along the way, many parents asked why the Consulate would be involved in such an endeavor. The answer is easy: Reading has been such an important, enjoyable part of my life, and I truly believe it is the key to a lifetime of success.
I am a passionate believer in the power of books to turn our children into problem solvers, innovators and ultimately become intelligent contributors to society as adults. The earlier we start reading to our children, the sooner we develop in them a passion for reading.
But you don’t have to take my word for it. There are hundreds of studies on the role that reading can play in developing a child’s learning skills:
· A U.S. Department of Education analysis found that children who were read to at least three times a week by a family member were almost twice as likely to score in the top 25 percent in reading as children who were read to less than three times a week. Just like children need exercise to build strong bodies, they need books to build strong minds.
· The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) “strongly recommends reading to children every day, starting after they are first born,” because “reading stimulates the development of the brain, language and a closer emotional relationship with a child.”
And for parents keen on encouraging their child to study engineering or computer science:
· In a study, “Improving Reading to Improve Math” published in June 2011 by the Society for the Scientific Study of Reading, authors concluded that children who practice reading comprehension show dramatic improvements in their ability to solve mathematical problems. “When children err in solving story problems, the errors are not necessarily in numerical calculations. Instead, a substantial difficulty is with language comprehension skill. (e.g., Cummins, Kintsch, Reusser, & Weimer, 1988). This lack of skill results in several kinds of errors, one of which is including irrelevant numerical information in solution procedures (e.g., Heffernan & Koedinger, 1997).”
At home, my husband and I encouraged reading long before our kids could make out a single word on their own. As a result, our children have developed an eager curiosity for reading and books. Our two-year-old asks for books by name and “reads” to himself (sits on the floor with a favorite book) every day. For me, the studies only back up what I already know to be true. I believe that “you are what you read” and if we can start reading to our children at a young age, feeding them books that will develop skills in creativity, problem solving and critical thinking, our children will develop a hunger for knowledge, and will be well-prepared for school and more importantly, for life.