"Remember to read. Every day. No excuses."

"The man who doesn't read good books has no advantage over the man who can't read them." --Mark Twain

I heard some startling statistics last week from Kendall Haven, the gifted storyteller who visited our school. I thought you might be interested.

Did you know that the last year in which the number of library check-outs exceeded video rentals was 1987? Did you know that today video rentals outnumber library check-outs 36 to 1?

Did you know that by the time a child is 6 years old, he will have watched 1,800 hours of TV, movies, and videos, but will have been read to for only 400 hours?

Did you know that 48 percent of adults in this country say they never read books? Never.

I guess it shouldn't come as any surprise when ABC News on Good Morning America reports that 38 percent of fourth-graders nationwide cannot read at a basic level.

Gee. Do ya' think there might be a connection?

Not that I believe that our national addiction to television and videos is the sole reason that so many of our children can't read. Not exactly. I know about learning disabilities and second language learners and dysfunctional families. But I do believe that before we blame schools we should take a look a little closer to home.

I know that if the survey had asked "Do you think learning to read is important?" respondents would have answered "yes." But when the question asked about what they do in their daily lives to demonstrate that value, they gave us the alarming picture painted by the numbers above.

Another point that these statistics make clear is that it is not for lack of time or money we don't read more. We just don't. All it

would take to turn this around is 15-30 minutes a day. Every day. No excuses. Like brushing your teeth. Very few of us forget that. We've done it since we were children. It's a habit.

To put it simply, reading to and with your child is the one best thing you can do to ensure that they will learn to read. There is no

excuse for not doing it.

It doesn't cost a nickel. Not a penny. It can be done in less time than it takes to put on your makeup or shave. It can be done in

less time than it takes to read this newspaper. Read to your child everyday. Starting when they are babies.

When they're babies? Yes, when they are babies. Brain research has shown that babies' brains are "wired" for learning language from birth to about age 4. If we don't read to them, sing to them, converse with them during those early years, that opportunity is lost.

Children who have been read to before they start school, begin school ready to learn to read. They know how a book works: front to back, top to bottom, left to right. They know that text carries a message. They know that stories have beginnings, middles, and endings that make sense. They have larger vocabularies and longer attention spans.

Reading to children teaches them life lessons too. They learn that reading is important and will forever after associate reading with your loving presence. And perhaps more importantly, the daily closeness and interaction with your children demonstrates just how valuable they are to you. This knowledge alone will help them survive

and triumph over many of life's little bumps.

Without this experience, we sentence our children to struggle and perhaps fail at one of the most critical parts of their life --learning to read.

We all want the best for our children. We want them to be the best they can be. We must do our best to give them what they need. We must read to them. Every day. No excuses.

Here's another statistic that I saved until last. Remember the 38 percent of the fourth graders who couldn't read at a basic level?

According to Carol Rasco, director of the America Reads Challenge, "about 75 percent of those children will still have significant problems in reading when they reach high school, if they stay in school." If they stay in school.

You know the benefits. You know the risks. Do your homework.

Read to your child. Every day. No excuses.

Lorie Smith Schaefer is a reading specialist at Seeliger Elementary School and wishes to remind readers that March is Nevada Reading Month. The theme this year is "Read to remember. Remember to read."


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