pediatric housecalls Robert R. Jarrett M.D. M.B.A. FAAP

Children’s Ability To Read

Not too long ago I took some fishing “Rods” (a couple of my neighborhood fishing buddies aged 14 and 18) to a special trout river in Arizona.

The automobile trip was long and hot, and my nerves were raw from the rock music blasting from the radio (I was out-voted).

I let the oldest take the wheel, turned off the radio (exercised my veto power) and enjoyed the silence – at least for about 47 seconds.   They both went into withdrawal pains from the silence and suggested that the least I could do was read to them.

The book that they selected was an abridged version of “A Parting Gift” by Francis Sharkey, M.D., in a Readers Digest Condensed book.

In it, she relates the story of her children cancer patients, and how she had to learn to cope with their deaths.

It is a very thought provoking and touching story.   Toward the end of the book I looked up to find that we had driven nearly a hundred miles without anyone realizing it.

I looked over toward the kids and they were both sitting upright, being very quiet in thought and I remarked to myself, “children love to be read to no matter what age.”

The story ended very emotionally and I could see that they were both deeply affected.

Here was a true life experience which neither of them would have ever experienced themselves except vicariously through this book, and I believe that they were better for it.

I can remember back to my own childhood and “the Beauty and the Beast.” “The Fisherman’s Wife,” and the “Princess and the Pea.”

parent reading with childWhat a wonderful gift it is to be able to remember a parent who read to you.  Much better than electronic games, wouldn’t you agree?

Consider the possibilities when a nightly (or daily or afternoonly) reading time becomes a ritual — the variety of topics, the good stories, the closeness.

It is a ritual which I like to use as an adjunct in the treatment of a variety of problems that you might consider strictly medical.

I’ve seen some good success when “reading times” are used for the following problems: nervous tics, nightmares, hyperactivity, learning disabilities, asthma, bed wetting, depression, stammering and aggression.   I’m sure I will find other areas too.

Recently I became aware of a study comparing first grade children who had found it difficult to learn to read with those who had found it fairly easy.

According to the study, the one underlying major factor was that the “easy” group had had parents who read to them while the “hard” group had parents who did not.

I’m sure there are other factors involved, but their findings make a great deal of sense.

How Am I Doing With Parenting?

Some teacher friends of mine have come up with 11 questions to ask yourself about your status as a reading family.

Do I:

  1. Read to my child?
  2. Let my child read to me?
  3. Read something myself everyday?
  4. Let my child see me reading?
  5. Have a library card?
  6. Take my child to the library?
  7. Subscribe to a newspaper and or magazines?
  8. Have books in the house?
  9. Buy books for my child?
  10. Contact my child’s teacher if I notice he or she
    has problems reading?
  11. Make time to play reading games with my child?
  12. Established a "reading ritual"?

We have 23 million illiterate adults in America.  We might not have one if each of them had been served reading as part of their nightly diet.

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