A Fifteen-Minute Investment

When I talk about reading with my kids with other parents—-that is, either me or my husband sitting down with them to read aloud or share the reading duties—-I hear these responses like these: “I wish I could find the time to do that,” or “we’re just too busy to read.”

I understand completely. Between work, school and church activities, sports, and keeping up a home, it is easy to miss daily opportunities to squeeze one more thing in the schedule. While I admit that we are far from perfect, we do our best to find at least 15 minutes to spend with our kids and a book. That might mean dad reads with the 13-year-old before bed, and I with the preschooler. It might mean the school-age child reads aloud while mom prepares dinner, or it may mean that dad sits on the floor with the baby and flips through picture books while simultaneously watching the evening news.

And sometimes we fail. Yesterday was one of those days. Weparentchild spent the day raking leaves and cleaning house, and doing other work, and before we knew it, the trick-or-treat hour was upon us. We had dinner, watched Nightmare Before Christmas, and the kids conked out without any real reading. But, I don’t feel guilty; we’ll make up for lost time today.

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Can you free up 15 minutes out of your day to read a picture book to your young children? Can you spare a quarter of an hour to listen to your older kids read a chapter or two from a novel?

Reading with your children does not have to take up a great deal of your time, nor effort. In the time it takes to watch an episode of Spongebob Squarepants, you could make a significant investment in your child’s future success, while at the same time, strengthening the family bond.

It is hard to see tangible returns when it comes to reading, but study upon study has proven that the amount of reading students do outside school is directly related to reading success in school (See a short-list of journal articles below).

Success in elementary and secondary school is the best predictor of achievement in college, which determines not only what career your child is capable of pursuing, but how secure he or she will be in that line of work.

Let’s consider the return on the investment in financial language, which isn’t too much of a stretch, since reading and school success directly relate to career. Let’s say that every minute of reading is equal to a $1 investment in your child’s future. So, 15 minutes a day earns $15 toward your child’s reading development. In a year’s time, your child’s reading skill grows by $5475.00. In 13 years, he or she will have amassed the ability and knowledge equivalent to $71, 175.00.

It’s not too late to start. Turn off the TV or video game for 15 minutes and pick up a book. Put cleaning, raking leaves, and errands on hold. Or just get ready for bed a little early tonight and end the day with a good book. Take turns reading the pages, or read aloud to all of your kids.

Daylight savings time gives us an extra hour. How will you use it?

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Anderson, R.C., Wilson, P.T., & Fielding, L.G. (1988, Summer). Growth in Reading and How Children Spend Their Time Outside of School. Reading Research Quarterly, 23(3), 285–303.

Christianson SL, T. Rounds, D. Gorney. (1992)Family Factors and Student Achievement: An Avenue to Increase Student Success. School Psychology Quarterly.

De Jong P.F., Leseman P.P.M. Lasting effects of home literacy on reading achievement in school. (2001) Journal of School Psychology, 39 (5), pp. 389-414.

Heath, Shirley Brice. (1982 )What No Bedtime Story Means: Narrative Skills at home and School. Language in Society. 11(1). 49-76.

McCarthey, Sarah J. (Jan. – Feb., 200) Home: School Connections: A Review of the Literature. The Journal of Educational Research, Vol. 93, No. 3, New Discoveries in Literacy for the 21st Century), pp. 145-153

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