ANDREA NEAL: Reading 20 minutes a day is reform that works

2012-10-18T00:00:00Z ANDREA NEAL: Reading 20 minutes a day is reform that worksBy Andrea Neal
October 18, 2012 12:00 am  • 

Before lawmakers throw money at the thorny issue of early-childhood education they should consider an experiment in Richmond aimed at getting parents to read to their children daily.

K-Ready, the brainchild of two literacy activists, Victor Jose and Rick Ahaus, has one goal: Reducing the number of children entering kindergarten not ready to learn.

“We’re trying to get parents to read to their children from the time of their birth until they enter kindergarten,” Jose explained.

If they succeed, it would be the most cost-effective early childhood program imaginable. By reading aloud to children 20 minutes a day, parents are wiring the children’s brains for reading instruction, Jose said.

A report by Educational Testing Service, “The Family: America’s Smallest School,” says research has built an overwhelming case for the value of reading to young children.

By age 2 “children who are read to regularly display greater language comprehension, larger vocabularies and higher cognitive skills than their peers,” according to Child Trends, one leading research group. “Shared parent-child book reading during children’s preschool years leads to higher reading achievement in elementary school.”

Predictably, there is a strong link between a family’s socioeconomic status and the amount of reading that goes on at home. The typical child of professional working parents is exposed to 45 million words by age four; the child in a welfare family to about 13 million.

Therein lies the challenge. The homes where reading rarely occurs are the homes that Ahaus and Jose must reach. They are trying to create a database of all children in Wayne County under age 4. They want the parents in those homes to understand the value of reading and to have ready access to age-appropriate books.

House Speaker Brian Bosma cited data showing that 61 percent of Indiana children ages 3 and 4 do not receive any schooling. Only six states have lower enrollment rates.

According to the Child and Adolescent Health Measurement Initiative, about 48 percent of Indiana children are read to daily, on par with the national average but considerably less than places like Vermont (68 percent) Massachusetts (58 percent) and even neighboring Kentucky (52 percent).

It is understandable that education-reform efforts would focus on getting more children into school sooner. A cheaper, more holistic and potentially transformational approach, however, would be to work with families, ensuring all homes provide children with the early literacy support they need.

Andrea Neal is an adjunct scholar with the Indiana Policy Review Foundation. This column represents the writer's opinion and not necessarily that of The Times. Write her at or in care of The Times.

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Follow The Times

Latest Local Offers

Featured Businesses

Submit a Letter to Editor

We welcome letters from readers on any issue of public interest, and make every effort to publish as many as we can and in a timely manner. The Times will publish only one letter a month from a writer, and be sure to include your name, address and a telephone number for verification. Letters should be 150 words or less. They will be edited.

Letters may be submitted:
  • Via our submission form.
  • Via e-mail.
  • Via fax: (219) 933-3249 or (219) 465-7298
  • Via mail or by hand to our offices:
    • 601 45th Ave., Munster, IN 46321
    • 2080 N. Main St., Crown Point, IN 46307
    • 1111 Glendale Blvd., Valparaiso, IN 46383
    • 3410 Delta Dr., Portage, IN 46368
    • Please mark envelopes with "Attn: Letters"


Email Editorial Page Editor Doug Ross or call (219) 548-4360 or (219) 933-3357



Should Lake County ask the attorney general's office to mediate in the E-911 consolidation dispute?

View Results