In the First Five Years

Did you know that 75% of a child’s IQ is developed in the first five years of life?  If you think early childhood is just a time of physical growth, you are mistaken.  The brain is constantly changing through this period (and really into adulthood too…the prefrontal cortex isn’t fully developed until around age 30!).  However, in the early years, changes are happening rapidly! 

At the recent NAEYC conference, I had the privilege of hearing Rosemary Wells speak on the importance of reading aloud to children from infancy.  (If you follow my blog, you may remember an entry I wrote in which I sited Mem Fox and her book Reading Magic, on the importance of read alouds).  Rosemary Wells added more fuel to the fire with additional tips and reasons for reading aloud.

Here are a few things that I found to be of particular interest:

1. Read at least 20 minutes a day to your child.  If you do:
                 • your child will learn to listen to you
                 • your child will learn skills to enable her to play independently
                 • your child will be ready to learn, be curious, excited, and ready for school

2. A wide-range of subject matter can be covered in a book.

3. Reading is the central most important skill a child can have- it opens up pathways in the brain and changes their lives forever.

4.  Reading aloud to children should be a pleasure. Children know when you are happy about reading to them and when you are considering it a chore. Show them that you are having fun while reading to them. They see your engagement with books and it influences their feelings about books as well.

5.  What we need in America is parent participation. If parents get involved and have the simple expectation that children must learn and that is their responsibility to get them there, then children will be okay. A parent is a child’s first teacher!

At the end of her presentation, Mrs. Wells showed the following video.  It shows what can happen when a child does not have exposure to books and other learning experiences in early childhood and how different that same child’s life can be in a playful, caring, print-rich environment.  Definitely something to think about! 

I would love your feedback and your ideas for favorite books for read alouds with your child or class!  Are you investing in quality early childhood experiences for your child and/or others?



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