Happy New Year parents and nannies!! I hope you all had a wonderful season of family, friends and full hearts. Each year, I like to set a new reading goal for myself. My goal is usually number or genre based, but I try not to think too much about it and just enjoy the process. As a nanny, I decided I would sit down with my charges and discuss setting reading goals for them as well. One of my girls is elementary aged, and an independent reader, while the other is still in preschool. Each of the children were excited about setting our reading goals and were ready to get right to work!

I am such an advocate for childrens’ literacy and wanted to share some tips I have learned. Family First Household Staffing Agency just did a book drive where we collected hundreds of books for Reach out and Read alongside Caitlin Andersen, a contestant in Miss South Carolina.

To get straight to it, this blog is going to cover some facts & stats, how we can approach them, how we can help develop our children(s) relationship with reading, and some fun reading goals for you and your children (or charges!)

Setting your child up for a successful reading career starts earlier than most would expect. Children’s academic successes at ages 9 and 10 can be attributed to the amount of talking they hear from infancy to the time they are three. Additionally, by age three, roughly 85% of a child’s brain is developed. During the first three years of a child’s life, they have the ability to absorb many behaviors, habits, routines, and knowledge. The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) found that children who were read to frequently are also more likely to: count to 20, write their own names, and read or pretend to read.  37% of children arrive at kindergarten without the skills necessary for lifetime learning, and ⅔ of fourth graders are not reaching the proficient reading level. These shocking numbers and statistics all point to one thing: Early childhood literacy is the key to educational success for our children. The more you read, and talk to your child, the more likely they are to speak, read, and eventually write at a proficient or advanced level. Children who are read to at least three times a week by a family member are almost twice as likely to score in the top 25% in reading. Despite this evidence, about half of children between birth and five yearsare read to every day by their parents, nannies or other family members.

According to the Department of Education, the more students read or are read to for fun on their own time and at home, the higher their reading scores. Helping your child develop a healthy relationship with reading can be a difficult task, and it is no secret that we, as adults, families, children, and humans, are just busy people. It can be hard to find time in our days to slow down and read. If you run a busy schedule, I suggest centering your family’s reading around bedtime. For pre-school aged children who cannot yet read on their own, set up a strong bed-time routine that includes reading and singing. For yourself, and your children who can read on their own, keep a book or two at your nightstand. Get into bed a little earlier than you typically would, set your phone down, and pick up your book. Reading before bed boosts your brain-power, creativity, and reduces stress by 68%. I also keep a handful of books in the backseat for rides around town, between activities, and longer trips. Your child is still absorbing words, pictures, and colors, even though you cannot read aloud from the driverseat of the car. If you are a person that drives around often, or gets stuck in traffic jams, be sure to rotate your car books every few weeks. I usually switch mine out when I clean my car. You can also consider checking out a children’s audio book from your local library, or listening to a children’s podcast (yes, they are a thing, and yes, they are amazing.)

Books for kids actually contain 50% more words that children are unlikely to encounter frequently than regular conversation, TV or radio, so turn off that pop music, and pop in an audiobook.  At my public school, kids are required to read 20 minutes every night. Required is the key word here, because once it is said, it is associated with homework. We know the benefits of reading, and now we have to find the fine balance between making sure our child reads, and making sure our child wants to read. If you create a strong reading community at home, your child will hopefully fall into place with the pace of everyone else. This can start, again, with a strong bed-time routine. Maybe your child sees you pick up a book after dinner instead of watching TV. At the dinner table, you can have lively discussions about your latest book. I am not saying you have to be an avid reader for your child to love to read too, but the support helps.

As your child gets older, talk about their interests and hobbies. I promise you there are books about anything and everything your child is interested in. Always have age appropriate books around the house, visit the library often, and allow your child to browse. Students who choose what they read and have an informal environment in which to read tend to be more motivated, read more and show greater language and literacy development. To make reading fun for my charges, I typically like to set goals and challenges. If they finish three chapter books in a month, we will go get ice cream, just us. Challenges with rewards can fuel a child’s desire to read. It only takes one book for a child to fall in love with reading. If you’re a reader like me, I bet you remember which books made you fall in love with reading. It only takes one!

Here are my own adult reading goals for 2020! (It should be noted that I am a part of a monthly book club, and these books are in addition to those:)

  • Read a Classic
  • Read a book recommended by my spouse or partner
  • Read a book written by a person of color
  • Read an LGBTQ+ book
  • Read a book published in the year I was born
  • Read a reimagined classic

Annnddd on a more personal note, I have so many books that I have bought and have not read, so I have resolved to read 6 books on my “to be read” list, to a total of 12 books in the year.

For my elementary aged charge, this is what we came up with for the month of January. We decided three would need to be chapter books (it’s a variation of my personal list):

  • Read a book that is set in the snow
  • Read a book about Martin Luther King Jr.
  • Read a book published the year you were born
  • Read a book set at the beach
  • Read a book about a character who doesn’t look like you
  • Celebrate A.A. Milnes birthday by reading a Winnie The Pooh story
  • Ask a Librarian for a recommendation
  • Read a book with a cover you aren’t crazy about
  • Build a fort and read inside it
  • Read a book while enjoying your favorite hot drink

For my preschool aged charge, we vowed to read 4 books together every day.

*All statistics are from the Literacy Project Foundation. For more information, click here.