I always knew reading to my kids was important, but this has opened my eyes to how important and how much.
Reading is the essential life skill
Research shows that learning to read is one of the most important factors in school success and that an early exposure to books and stories substantially contributes to success in early literacy. There are strong links between literacy, school performance, self-esteem and life chances with poor literacy skills being linked with lower education, earnings, health and social outcomes as well as high rates of unemployment, welfare dependence and teenage parenting.
It often surprises people to learn that Australia has a significant literacy issue.
Figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show that 46% of Australian adults don’t have the literacy skills they need to cope with the demands of everyday life and work.
The Australian Early Development Index shows that almost 33% of five year old children starting school in Western Australia are developmentally vulnerable or at risk in their language and cognitive skills.
A survey by the Australian Industry Group, carried out as part of their National Workforce Literacy Project in 2010 found that more that 75% of employers reported that their business was affected by low levels of literacy and numeracy.
How Can We Help?
Reading aloud to children is the single most important activity for building the skills and knowledge necessary for children to successfully learn to read when they begin school. Children who are good readers are usually successful learners.
The Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth report, The Wellbeing of Young Australians finds that Children up to the age of five who have had limited exposure to printed language and who have not been read to as a child have increased risk for reading failure and general poor school performance.
The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) assesses the extent to which 15 year olds students have acquired the knowledge and skills essential for full participation in society. In 2009 this study found that Fifteen-year-old students whose parents often read books with them during their first year of primary school show markedly higher scores in PISA 2009 than students whose parents read with them infrequently or not at all. The Australian national report, Challenges for Australian Education: Results from PISA 2009, released by the Australian Council for Educational Research, is also available.
James Heckman, PhD and 2000 Nobel Laureate in Economic Sciences in his paper "Invest in the Very Young" states that Learning starts in infancy, long before formal education begins… when human ability and motivation are shaped by families and non-institutional environments. Early learning begets later learning and early success breeds later success…[which] lays the foundation for success or failure in school, which in turn leads to success or failure in post-school learning.
Bookstart is the world's first national book gifting program, developed by Booktrust in 1992. Research by Professor Barrie Wade and Dr Maggie Moore from Birmingham University has shown that on starting school, Bookstart children were significantly ahead of their classmates in all reading and number assessments. At age seven, the Bookstart children were still ahead of their classmates in learning.