As American parents look overseas to see how their students stack up against competition from other countries, an international organization has produced a resource that shares ideas about the importance of reading to children.
"Let's Read Them a Story! The Parent Factor in Education" is a new 82-page book for parents and teachers recently published by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). It is available for free download.
OECD oversees the Program for International Assessment (PISA), which offers an international exam of 15-year-olds that gauges literacy in reading, science, and math across dozens of countries. In a recent article, "Individual U.S. Schools Take Part in PISA Pilot," Education Week reporter Erik Robelen explains that more than 100 U.S. schools will see how they stack up against the world on the PISA exam after it is administered later this year, with a special focus on math.
The e-book focuses on parents' role in reading, concentrating on the results from a questionnaire about parental involvement that was distributed in 13 countries and economies. The book incorporates ideas from the United States, although the survey was not conducted there.
The bottom line? Children who were read to when very young are better readers at age 15.
"PISA found that certain activities were more strongly related to better student performance than others. ... Reading books to children when they are just beginning primary school and talking with adolescents about topical political or social issues are shown to have a positive impact on children's learning. Even just reading at home benefits children, because it shows them that reading is something that their parents value.
"Children whose parents are involved in their education in these ways are generally found to be more receptive to language; they are also more adept at planning, setting goals, initiating and following through in their studies and individual projects. Essentially, children who have mastered these kinds of skills have learned how to learn—and that will help them not only during their years in education, but throughout the rest of their lives."
The good news for concerned parents? According to PISA, "it does not require a Ph.D or unlimited hours for parents to make a difference in their children's education. In fact, many parent-child activities that are associated with better reading performance among students involve relatively little time and no specialized knowledge. What these activities do demand is genuine interest and active engagement."
And then there's my favorite chapter: "Get Involved at School Because You Want To, Not Because You Have To."