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Educating Our Children Starts With Storybooks

Suggestions for what to do with the kids this summer are pouring in.

The camp notices. Vacation destination guides.

Reviews of summer’s blockbuster movies.

There is one really cool thing that could easily be forgotten.

Reading with your kids.

Don’t let it slip your mind.

To be outside on a summer evening with a child and a storybook is one of life’s delicious pleasures.

The child sits very close.

The sky darkens as your voice pours details of the gods or dinosaurs or “Goodnight Moon” into the unbounded imagination of a young mind.

This truly can be a life-changing experience.

A new study suggests the important link between reading to your kids and later success in school.

Research shows kids who didn’t have books read to them score 46 points below the national average for reading in the fourth grade. Kids who did have books read to them score 28 points above the national average for reading in fourth grade.

Recently, Carla Nuxoll, the Northwest’s regional representative for the U.S. Department of Education, visited Spokane to introduce Read Write Now, a program to encourage adults to read to children.

Do we need a kit to tell parents how to read to their children?

Yes, we do.

“Experiences between birth and 5 years old account for about one-half of all the development we make as human beings,” Nuxoll said after a stop at Jefferson Elementary School. “And kids who get turned onto reading early in school end up doing better all the way through.”

Unfortunately, reading is in danger of taking a back seat to computers in the minds of many parents and some teachers.

Hey, if it’s going to be a multimedia computer world, why read?

Interestingly, a major proponent of technology in schools says reading is still the best way to become a future computer-literate person.

“Reading really is essential to good computer skills,” said Gary Livingston, Spokane School District 81 superintendent and someone who advocates putting computers in every classroom.

“The value of computers is that they allow access to more complex information,” Livingston said on a tour with Nuxoll.”If you don’t read very well, there is no way to access that information in the computer.”

Plus, trying to learn to read via the computer is difficult.

The printed page is much easier to read. It’s bigger than most computer screens, has better black-and-white contrasts, and both the print and the pictures on paper have much higher clarity and resolution than pixels on a screen.

Plus, a book also is highly portable, can be dropped and doesn’t need a battery. And, if your kid goes to sleep and you need to go back and find your place on another night, a book can be easily stored and the information in it retrieved.

The time and place to begin reading books to prepare young children for the computer world is when the children are very young, meaning under age 10.

Sadly, many parents don’t bother.

Nuxoll, who for years taught in the Mead School District north of Spokane, was shocked when she returned to her district and brought boxes of books at a used book sale to give away to students. “Many kids came up to me and said it was the first book that they ever had owned,” she said.

Parents who haven’t ever settled onto a couch as children with some adult reading in their ears probably don’t know what they missed nor how they might pick up this good habit.

That is why the Department of Education has put together the Read Write Now kit.

The how-to-read-to-your-kids booklet in the kit sounds simplistic to those who already have experienced what reading to children is like.

The booklet has such obvious suggestions as: “Read The Three Little Pigs. At the end of the story ask your child what happened at the beginning. Praise your child for remembering part of the story.”

But if you haven’t read to a child, the little games that develop reading and retention skills wouldn’t necessarily come to mind.

In the next two weeks the free kits will be available in every low-income neighborhood elementary school in Spokane.

Or, parents may call a toll-free number and have a kit sent to their home. The number is 1-800-872-Learn5327. It works.

And if that isn’t enough, Pizza Hut has put a certificate for a free personal pan pizza in each kit.

Get the kit. Read 30 minutes a day to your kid. Keep track of the days and the books. Free pizza.

This is summer fun that feeds the brain.

, DataTimes MEMO: Chris Peck is the editor of The Spokesman-Review. His column appears each Sunday on Perspective.

Chris Peck is the editor of The Spokesman-Review. His column appears each Sunday on Perspective.

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