Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month!

By Omar Jawdat, Blog Intern

At Words Alive, we’re celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month by taking a look at the history of this month and highlighting lively, cultural books on our curriculum list that connect with Hispanic history and culture! During this month, we recognize the significant contributions and the native heritage of Latin Americans that has existed in the United States since before its colonization. Hispanic Heritage Month began in 1968, beginning from September 15, which is the anniversary of the independence of five Latin countries, including Mexico, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. Today, 18% of the American population are of Hispanic/Latino origin. The term “Hispanic” or “Latino” refers to cultural and ethnic roots from the Carribean, South & Central America, or Spain. 

It is important to incorporate Hispanic authors/characters in both children and young adult novels. It is also vital for students to be introduced to new and different cultures in order to raise awareness of what is happening around the world, as well as in our own country. Many students can also see themselves represented in these books, as it explores empathetic topics and other relatable themes of Hispanic heritage, culture, and language. Hispanic novels enrich and enhance multiculturalism in the classroom, as some students can relate to the characters and plots in these books, which are based off  existing culture that is present today. 

Here is a sample of books exploring Hispanic themes on our Read Aloud and Adolescent Book Group curriculum lists!

Read Aloud Program

An image of a page from  Tortillas Are Round . The image features and adult cooking a stew while two young children help. The text says: “Round are tortillas and tacos, too. Round is a pot of abuela’s stew. I can name more round things. Can you?”   Source:

An image of a page from Tortillas Are Round. The image features and adult cooking a stew while two young children help. The text says: “Round are tortillas and tacos, too. Round is a pot of abuela’s stew. I can name more round things. Can you?”


Tortillas Are Round by Roseanne Greenfield Thong is a book that focuses on teaching children about shapes, as well as comparing and identifying common objects with those shapes. The story is written in both English and Spanish, allowing the opportunity for students to learn new Spanish words. 

Another book we’re proud to have on our list is Harvesting Hope: The Story of Cesar Chavez by Kathleen Krull. This story introduces students to one of the greatest civil rights leaders, Cesar Chavez, who led a 340-mile peaceful protest march in California, supporting workers’ rights for migrant farmers. The story also explores Cesar Chavez’s background of growing up in poverty with parents who slaved in the fields, having barely enough money to survive.   

Adolescent Book Group

The Adolescent Book Group Program is proud to introduce students to Enrique’s Journey by Sonia Nazario. This is a true story of a brave Honduran boy who faces unimaginable hardships, as he journeys to reunite with his mother in the United States. At age 5, Enrique’s mother left Honduras to work in the U.S. to support her children. At age 16, Enrique ventures out alone from Tegucigalpa with nothing but a slip of his mother’s telephone number from North Carolina. Sonia Nazario is an award-winning journalist whose stories pertain to real world problems. This book, particularly, raises issues of immigration, explores perseverance, and depicts the danger and difficulties of travelling to the U.S. from Central America through Mexico.  

An image of the book  Like Water For Chocolate . Source: @fictionmatters on Instagram.

An image of the book Like Water For Chocolate. Source: @fictionmatters on Instagram.

Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel is a fictional novel, which tells the story of a young girl named Tita who yearns to marry the love of her life, Pedro. However, according to her mother, Tita must follow the family tradition of the youngest daughter not marrying, but taking care of her mother until the day she dies. Pedro ends up marrying Tita’s older sister, Rosaura, instead. This causes Tita’s imense emotions to be infused with her cooking. Anyone who eats her food will feel intense sadness, happiness, longing, or anger. This story brings about themes of magical realism, love, happiness, lust, grief, and rebirth. 





Executive Skills in Reading and Learning!

By Omar Jawdat, Blog Intern

An image of two children exploring a book with their parent in our Family Literacy Program.

An image of two children exploring a book with their parent in our Family Literacy Program.

Executive skills are a set of skills and “brain tools” used to manage tasks, behaviors, and one’s own thoughts in order to achieve and accomplish goals. From an early age, executive skills play an important role in cognitive functions, such as reading comprehension and overall learning. According to Kelly Cartwright, (author of Executive Skills and Reading Comprehension: A Guide for Educators [2015, Guilford Press]), students who have difficulties with reading comprehension, ‘despite having age-appropriate word reading skills, have lower levels of executive skills than their peers with higher comprehension’. In addition, students may not be able to fully understand or gain sufficient knowledge from information taken from vital core subjects in school, which include science, math, or social studies, especially if they cannot comprehend what they read.

The key components of executive skills for reading comprehension can be broken down into three main categories: Cognitive Flexibility, Working Memory, and Inhibition.

Cognitive Flexibility is the ability to shift from one activity to another, or back and forth between important components of a task. It relies on how you think about a situation, as well as what you think about it. Other skill sets that pertain to Cognitive Flexibility include:

  • Open-mindedness in terms of different opinions and perspectives. 

  • Willingness to accept and risk mistakes.

  • Considering different methods for problem solving.

  • Engaging in learning, discovery, and innovative creativity.

When reading, all these factors included with cognitive flexibility allow for a student to actively shift focus between many important parts of reading, such as word and text meanings, letter-sound information, and sentence grammar. 

Working Memory is the capacity to hold information in mind for a period of time and use that information for the particular work/task to achieve goals. In reading, working memory is necessary to comprehend the meaning of a text by keeping in mind what you have already read. As you read, you update your understanding of the written text. Children use working memory to sound out words in order to memorize and remember different letter sounds, then put them together to figure out what the word is. Working memory also helps with: 

  • Following instructions.

  • Reading an unknown word.

  • Paraphrasing/Summarizing written information. 

  • Answering questions, as well as asking them.

  • Organizing words or sentences. 

Inhibition refers to one’s control of stopping automatic and impulsive responses, while at the same time, ignoring irrelevant distractions that would otherwise interfere with one’s main focus for a certain goal. To be a good inhibitionist, one must think before acting. This skill is also necessary when trying to comprehend reading. People who are good at comprehension will leave out the irrelevant words or text that do not connect with the main themes, ideas, messages, or instructions being brought out by the reading. Inhibitionists will be able to point out and locate the most effective sources of the text, while leaving out the irrelevant ones.

Teach Them at an Early Age 

According to research, children with better executive function skills perform better on literacy exams. Children who begin to learn how to read and write acquire their executive skills through pre-literacy training, such as recognizing and sounding out letters. Once they are able to master pre-literacy skills, their executive skills will increasingly continue into reading comprehension and other more complex abilities. 

Cognitive flexibility, working memory, and inhibition are also obtained from an early age when children are learning to read and write. For children, working memory has to do with helping a child keep a main topic or a goal on paper while writing, as well as helping them with remembering the spelling and grammar rules. 

Cognitive flexibility helps children think of different ways to say things, especially in writing. It encourages kids to think more about what is being read, by putting what is written into different sentences, or explaining it in different ways. 

Inhibition control is the process of brainstorming: to gather thoughts and ideas for planning before the writing process. ‘It is needed when encountering words with multiple meanings, by choosing the correct meaning in the context of the story and ignoring its other meanings’. An example of this could be when differentiating between words that have different meanings, such as “bat”, which could be used to either describe a baseball bat or the animal.

Long Term Benefits for Building Executive Skills 

These three skills (cognitive flexibility, working memory, & inhibition) for executive function are crucial for academic performance. It helps students organize their work more efficiently, and engage with learning through a wider variety of options, rather than just glueing one’s eyes to a book and reading through the text just once. These skills and methods help young students absorb the actual information given by the text, and helps their minds process it in a more successful manner.

In addition, students will not only have better reading comprehension, but it will allow them to effectively manage and control their own behavior, regulate overall thinking and learning, regulate emotional processes, impulses, and develop peer relations through friendship and strong communication.  






The 30-Million Word Gap

By Omar Jawdat, Blog Intern

An image of a child and parent reading together in our Family Literacy Program.

An image of a child and parent reading together in our Family Literacy Program.

The 30-Million Word Gap? 

Does poverty affect a child’s vocabulary and grammatical skills? According to studies conducted by education researchers Betty Hart and Todd Risley, “the average welfare child had 1/2 as much experience per hour (616 words per hour) as the average working class child (1,251 words per hour.), and less than 1/3 as much experience as the average professional class child (2,153 per hour).” From their study, they also concluded that the word-gap between children in upper income households and those in low-income households was 30 million words. In addition, the qualitative aspects of these children’s language environments were also measured. Nonetheless, the 30 million words became a popluar statistic in literacy and education circles, but in recent years has been questioned more and more.

In 2017, another study was conducted by Senior Director of Research and Evaluation, Dr. Jill Gilkerson. Her method involved using technology, rather than Hart and Risley’s method of intrusive observers. The study collected 49,765 hours of recording from 329 families by using the LENA (Language Environment Analysis) system, which automatically generates an estimate of the “number of adult words in the child's environment, the amount of caregiver–child interaction, and the frequency of child vocal output”’: (

The results seemed to be more effective, and it concluded that the word gap was much smaller than 30 million words. According Gilkerson, only a ‘4-million word gap was present between those highly educated, high socioeconomic status (SES) parents and those with a lower SES.  

How Did This Idea Begin?

One of the first studies that introduced the notion of the ‘word-gap’ began in the 1980’s with Hart and Risley. The study was mentioned in their book, Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experience of Young American Children, which wasn’t published until 1992. The study was composed of 42 families at four levels of income and education, from low income to “professional class” families. From infants to toddlers up to age 3, the number of words spoken by these children, which included engaged communication activities with their parents (such as questions and commands), and the growth in words produced by the children were recorded.

Their hopes and aims were to help improve student outcomes of academic progress later on in school by catching onto the problem of the ‘word-gap’ from an early age. However, the word-gap study is not as simple as it may seem.  

Ethnic Considerations 

Another reason for speculations regarding this statistic is due to the fact that many children come from different ethnic backgrounds. This means that the study must also include data based on early development of different languages spoken (children who become bilingual), and whether or not children are being taught more than one language as they grow. This abstracts the number of words spoken in a household. Anya Kamenetz says that “Sperry (Lead author of Child Development) and his co-authors fall into a camp that criticizes the ‘word gap’ concept as racially and culturally loaded in a way that ultimately hurts the children whom early intervention programs are ostensibly trying to help.”  

Around the 1980’s, 10.68% of the U.S. population was bilingual. Since 2016, the percentage has risen to 20%. Today, it is estimated that 22% of the nation is bilingual. Some children grow up learning the native language of their parents, then English, or vice versa. Professor of Education at the University of California, Los Angeles, Marjorie Faulstich Orellana, mentions the idea of learning a second language as ‘word wealth’. Children who grow up learning a different language or even a different dialect other than English, (the dominant/most common language spoken in school), actually shows more experience in children at an early age. “This would describe not only recent immigrants, but also anyone whose background isn't white, educated and middle or upper class. When they get to school, they must learn to ‘code switch’ between two ways of speaking”.

The Truth Behind the Matter

While it is important to keep a steady statistic or well-formulated theory about the ‘word-gap’ amongst children, it is also important to realize that a child’s environment and socioeconomic status may not always be the main reason for a child’s vocabulary skills. There are several other factors at play. 

These factors include how effective parents, preschools, and other related learning programs are in helping children develop their language from an early stage of their adolescence. Children who are prone to hearing and witnessing verbal abuse, a lack of communication, and distracting language from their parents, siblings, and other relatives could also interfere with a child’s normal appropriate learning speech. Roberta Golinkoff calls this type of language ‘ambient’, which may also have an impact on early language development. Other ambients could include television, radio, and adult conversations where kids are not directly spoken to, but are in the midst of the environment where the child could hear. 

Other Speculations

Hirsh-Pasek adds, “the sheer volume of conversation directed at children, not just spoken in their presence, is fundamental to language learning and later success in school.” While this may be an important asset in early language development, Douglas Sperry points out that in other cultures, such as the Mayan Culture in Central America, for example, it is uncommon for adults to address children directly, and yet these children still learn to speak adequately. 

Orellana also disagrees that there is a “variation of speech” depending on how much adults speak to children. Instead, she believes that “other values, like using language to entertain or connect, rather than just have children perform their knowledge” can be effective with the process of speech and language development.   

Although the word-gap study may not be necessarily accurate, the key intention is to investigate and understand what is beneficial for students in order to achieve greater success in school. Learning how to communicate effectively in the household is the first step to learn how to engage with the outside world. 








Critical Thinking & Critical Reading

By Tait Longhi, Blog Intern

Image of a young person sitting on the sidewalk and reading Contact.

Image of a young person sitting on the sidewalk and reading Contact.

When it comes to learning, critical thinking is a crucial foundational concept. Critical thinking is defined as an “intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action” from The Foundation of Critical Thinking.

Critical reading is another concept that is crucial, particularly for young learners. Critical reading involves the individual’s ability to recognize the author's purpose and intent. Knowing an author's biases, background and tone all play into understanding the words on the page to their fullest extent.

Critical reading and thinking work hand in hand. Being able to use critical thinking whilst reading, to remain open-minded and rational, heavily plays into critical reading. But how can we teach it to the upcoming generation? It’s good to begin with a question, like “what do you want to learn about this book or topic?” according to Wabisabi Learning. From there, you can incorporate literature to assist progress. This approach will help the critical thinking and reading skills, simultaneously.

At Words Alive, we believe that this marriage of concepts is extremely beneficial for all parties, those learning and those teaching. It shows we all can further our intellectual abilities just by looking a little deeper.

Social Emotional Learning

By Tait Loghi, Blog Intern

Many of you reading may be asking, “what is social emotional learning (SEL)?” Well, according to the Committee for Children it is defined as, “the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.” This type of learning promotes several areas of development for the next generation as they get older. For example, empathy, communication, emotional control and management as well as assertiveness are traits that are championed and taught through this method.

Starting back in 1995 with the rise of funding and interest in SEL, and by the beginning of the 2000s, SEL had been implemented in schools in all 50 states as well as internationally. In over two decades of SEL teaching, many studies have been conducted and they have found some amazing results. According to CASEL,  a “2011 meta-analysis of 213 studies involving more than 270,000 students, those who participated in evidence-based SEL programs showed an 11% point gain in academic achievement.” Clearly, SEL makes a drastic difference in learning for the children.

Here at Words Alive, we understand that the benefits of reading are multi-faceted and extend way beyond meeting literacy benchmarks. Children explicitly learn social and emotional skills through reading!

According to the article “Tips to Incorporate Social-Emotional Learning Into Everyday Literacy Instruction” SEL and reading can “serve as a model of how...Resilience, in particular, is a core SEL skill that translates well across subject areas”. Through reading, children and young adults learn how to be resilient, how to empathize with others, and how to believe in yourself.


How Reading Inspires Communities

By Tait Longhi, Blog Intern

An image of a group of students in our Read Aloud Program excitedly holding up their books.

An image of a group of students in our Read Aloud Program excitedly holding up their books.

There are countless reasons why two strangers may connect, but one common reason that has connected all ages is the commonality of stories. As a child, when you discover that your classmate loves the same book series as you, an immediate conversation ensues. Being able to talk about characters, what they think will happen next and why they love the book as much as you do creates a bond.

This doesn’t go away with childhood, if anything it intensifies. Reading doesn’t only builds friendships, but entire communities. Words Alive, organizations like the Harry Potter Alliance (HPA), GoodReads or just a classic book club are just a few examples of how the power of reading can bring people together. It may be the fact that every person reading the pages will take a different lesson or viewpoint than the next, and we as humans desire to know and understand one another through these insights.

Books also teach us life lessons that inspire us to do something good for our community. Organizations like the Harry Potter Alliance were founded out of a love for the Harry Potter series and have created a whole community of activists who are using popular stories to change the world. John and Hank Green are brothers (and both authors) who have fostered an online community called Nerdfighteria, a community that celebrates many things but chief among them is a love for books and learning. With the internet, it’s easier than ever to find and form communities around a love of books.

According to the journal, “Using Parent Book Clubs to Build a School-Wide Reading Community”, a high school class partook in reading aloud throughout the year. This allowed students to “engage in meaningful relationships and social interactions tied to reading, and these connections mattered to them. Students took these connections seriously, and they authentically acted in ways to contribute positively to the reading community.” Here, we can see what one could call book club within the classroom.

The importance in these communities may seem obvious, but there is more than just reading aloud and discussing books. Organizations like Words Alive understand that communities that value reading help build thriving and intellectual individuals and relationships among one another.  

Reading, literacy and all it brings is a powerful thing, which is why we at Words Alive are here. Through the passion of reading we have come together to show the importance and positive impact it can make on others. While reading is often done in solidarity, it has the unique ability to bring a huge group together, to understand and bond with one another.  

Read Across America 2019!

By Jennifer Van Pelt

A graphic featuring the text “Read Across America” underneath an image of the hat from Dr. Seuss’s “The Cat in the Hat.”

A graphic featuring the text “Read Across America” underneath an image of the hat from Dr. Seuss’s “The Cat in the Hat.”

Read Across America Day falls annually on March 2nd. The holiday was initially founded by the National Education Association (NEA) as a small way to help advocate for the importance reading among children by making it an exciting celebration. Twenty one years later, 3.3 million NEA members support the event. The holiday, which falls on Dr. Suess’s birthday, aims to motivate children to read more at a young age with the goal of creating lifelong successful readers.

The U.S. Department of Education found that, generally, the more students read for fun on their own time, the higher their reading scores. To help encourage this behavior, the NEA comes out with a digital literacy calendar with suggested books for various reading levels that coincide with holidays, events, or unique topics. Included in this calendar is also a list of suggested activities and resources to make reading a more engaging experience. The National Center of Education also found that children who were read to frequently were more likely to count to 20 or above, write their own names, and read or pretend to read, are all very important skills. Integrating reading into a child’s daily routine is imperative to creating a basis to build upon as they grow older.

As a day that is celebrated in many schools, libraries, and community centers, it’s a great opportunity to incorporate Dr. Suess and his incredibly popular children’s books. Thirty years after his passing, his books are still some of the most recognizable, visually intriguing, and entertaining books to read for children and adults alike. As an author who had fun with words and sounds, he helped children get comfortable with phrases they were unfamiliar with. Lines such as, “Then he hides what you paid him away in his Snuvv, his secret strange hole in his gruvvulous glove” encourage both adults and children to use context clues to figure out the meaning of “snuvv” or “gruvvulous” and how they work within the sentence.

Aside from encouraging children to infer, Dr. Seuss also included a lot of lessons in his books. From teaching children about treating the Earth with respect and the importance of sustainability in The Lorax to classics such as The Cat in the Hat, he was able to incorporate a lesson, big or small, into the book. The Cat in the Hat, perhaps one of his most iconic books, is featured in Read Across America media and the hat is even sold with some purchases to bring the celebration full circle.

Read Across America is a great way to help children get excited about something they may often associate strictly with school. Words Alive firmly believes that by extending the spirit of this celebration into an everyday commitment, it has the power to improve lives for the better. If you would like to learn more about the various ways we make reading fun and accessible to children of all ages, click here.

Finding Your Passion in College

By Grace Larsen, Guest Blogger

Image of a person standing in the middle of a library aisle, looking at a book that they are holding open.

Image of a person standing in the middle of a library aisle, looking at a book that they are holding open.

College can be daunting for many students as there is a lot of pressure to be “career ready.” Words Alive previously explored what exactly that term means, and it entails having the tools to obtain a job after graduation as well as being prepared to pursue apprenticeships and on-the-job training. Of course, all that is easier said than done. In order to be career ready, one must have a clear picture of the future they want to begin with. 

Therein lies the problem: for many of us, knowing what we want to do before stepping into college is far from easy. In fact, according to figures by the National Center for Education Statistics, about 80% of college students change majors at least once. Another study found that students who started out in mathematics and natural sciences are more likely than others to make a switch. Each student has their own personal reasons for changing majors, but a common denominator is that they realized a little too late that their interests lie elsewhere.

All in all, switching majors has its pros and cons. One advantage is that you’ll be more satisfied knowing that you pushed through with exploring the path you really want. Changing majors also widens your knowledge of other areas of study because of the fact that you’ve taken classes in more than one department. However, the biggest con is that your college expenses can very easily rack up. Another is that you won’t be able to graduate on time, and will be spending more time in school instead of embarking on your career. 

This is why guidance counselors and teachers grill high school students about “finding their passion” so early in life: so that they can pursue their chosen fields and stick with them until graduation. Unfortunately, aiming to discover one's passion is actually the wrong mindset. To better understand why, let's take a look at a study by psychologists from Stanford University and Yale University, which points to two different theories. The “fixed theory of interests” is the idea that core interests are there from birth and are just waiting to be discovered. Meanwhile, the “growth theory” posits that interests are something that a person cultivates over time. 

These psychologists explain that students with the first mindset may waste their time skipping opportunities and foregoing lessons that aren’t aligned with their previously stated passions. Also, if a person is told that their interests are ingrained, they may easily give up on learning certain topics because of the belief that these don’t align with their predetermined interests.

Therefore, high school students shouldn’t start college applications thinking about finding their passions, but rather, to develop them. With the second mindset centered on growth, one can increase their knowledge in areas outside of pre-existing interests. In contrast to those with a fixed mindset, they would then form connections among new areas and the interests they already have. 

For a start, Maryville University provides some key pieces of advice on how to choose a degree program or area of study. They emphasize the importance of knowing a particular field’s median salary, projected growth, and the percentage of bachelor’s degrees awarded annually. Information like this can help you check whether you see yourself in a particular field years from now. You can then proceed to researching school options as well as other things like costs and location.

Again, it's important not to feel overly pressured to know for certain what you love and will continue to love in the future. It’s healthier to believe that passion is something that you create. This helps you tackle your chosen field with a more determined approach, and shapes how you will learn along the way. College may expose you to a number of challenges and obstacles, but a growth mindset can keep you focused on building your passion.

Learn more about our work with college students through the Words Alive Westreich Scholarship program here!

Life Lessons Learned From Popular Children's Books

By Jennifer Van Pelt

An image from The Lorax by Dr. Seuss. The Lorax is standing on a tree stump and text on the images says, “‘Mister!’ he said with a sawdusty sneeze, ‘I am the Lorax. I speak for the trees.’”

An image from The Lorax by Dr. Seuss. The Lorax is standing on a tree stump and text on the images says, “‘Mister!’ he said with a sawdusty sneeze, ‘I am the Lorax. I speak for the trees.’”

If you think back on some of your favorite books as a child, or the books you read to your own family members and loved ones, there’s likely some stories or motifs that stick out in your memory. Examples of popular themes in children’s books include not getting to bed on time and all of the chaos it can create, what eating too much food can cause, or why being nice to siblings can bring positive experiences. These subtle themes introduce new ideas to children as well as humanize lessons for them.

Some books take these lessons even further by relating them to some of the “Golden Rules” or basic social skills that children should learn when they are young. Aesop’s Fables is perhaps one of the most famous for popularizing these ideas for children, but it’s a common practice among popular contemporary children’s literature. Take a look at some of the examples below that you may have not realized subtly suggest a larger life lesson to children.

“The Rainbow Fish” by Marcus Pfister follows the story of a beautiful rainbow fish who keeps his beautiful scales to himself instead of sharing them with the other fish, leaving him with no friends. By the end of the book, the fish learns that giving the other fish some of his scales made him friends, thus embodying the “sharing is caring” motto we often teach children.

“Corduroy” by Don Freeman depicts the story of a teddy bear who goes on a hunt for his missing button that he believes he needs for any child to love him enough to buy him. After an adventure-filled and fruitless excursion for another button, a little girl buys him and loves him for his flaws. This book touches on the lesson that no one is perfect and everyone has flaws; it’s just about learning to love yourself as you are.

No children’s book list would be complete without a book from Dr. Seuss. “The Lorax”, perhaps one of his more popular and pertinent books, is a cautionary tale about treating the Earth with respect. It follows a child and his discovery to how his previously breathtaking town came to become such a desolate and destructed area. This book not only teaches children about the importance of sustainability and moderation, there’s also an overarching theme about the importance of learning from the past.

Words Alive knows that there are countless more benefits to reading aloud to children. In addition to introducing life lessons to them, reading aloud can also support their overall knowledge of books in general, cadence of reading a book, and vocabulary. If you would like to support our journey in ensuring more children are able to participate in the experience of reading aloud, you can visit our Read Aloud Program homepage here to learn more.

The Rise of Reading Aloud

By Jennifer Van Pelt

An image from our Champions for Youth Read Aloud event. A group of students stare intently at a book that is being help open by a member of the PGA Wives Association.

An image from our Champions for Youth Read Aloud event. A group of students stare intently at a book that is being help open by a member of the PGA Wives Association.

Scholastic recently published their bi-annual report on reading aloud. The report focused on the prevalence of reading aloud in the home, at what age this is most common, and the implications of the study.

The Rise of Read Aloud: Summary

When the study was first conducted in 2014, the percentage of babies younger than 3 months old who were read aloud to was 30%. Four years later, this has increased to 43%. Additionally, the percentage of children younger than one year who are read to has increased from 73% to 77% in 2018. It’s noted that this study began the year that the American Academy of Pediatrics began encouraging parents to read to their children beginning at birth. Despite the possible reasons behind why there has been a rise in the number of children who are read aloud to, it is a positive trend that helps to prepare babies and young children with language skills that will be important in their lives.

When asking the parents and children about how much they enjoy the reading aloud experience, the trend is also positive, with over 80% of children and parents rating read aloud time as something they “love” or “like a lot”. Several different benefits of the read aloud experience were referenced by the survey participants, from activities such as picking out the books to the talking and laughing that the whole family gets involved in. Asking questions and making sound effects are also part of the read aloud experience that is measured in the study, as these are positive actions for both the reader and audience to participate in.

Where the Opportunities Remain

The study shows that the practice of reading aloud peaks at the age of five, lessening around the time that the child enters kindergarten and can read on their own. However, at this age there is still much to learn in terms of vocabulary, writing styles, and plot. The article points out that continuing to frequently read aloud beyond this point is a key factor in predicting whether or not children ages 6-11 will be frequent readers (which we knows leads to better educational and social outcomes).

Lower-income families with children ages eight and under read aloud less frequently; 39% of families with household incomes less than $35,000 read aloud to their children 5-7 times a week compared to 62% among families with incomes of $100,000 or more. Lower-income families with kids ages five and under are also less likely to have received information on the importance of reading aloud from birth.

At Words Alive, we understand the importance of reading aloud, and in fact have a whole program dedicated to helping children become lifelong readers by participating in engaging read aloud session with our volunteers. Also, our Family Literacy Program focuses on educating participants about why reading is an important family activity. If you would like to learn more about our programs, click here

Read Scholastic’s full study here: