We knew it: Kids become good readers when parents/teachers 1) read to them, 2) show them books with great stories & illustrations, 3) talk to them about their ideas, and 4) give them tools to read.

A recent Stanford University study published by Professor Marin Aukerman describes how kids naturally move to the driver’s seat by the end of Grade 2 to take charge of their reading when grownups give them the proper tools.

What’s the secret sauce? The Stanford researcher found that kids who know how to decode (break down words into syllables) well most naturally move between pictures and words to understand the piece- they talk about text more often and are more on point than classmates. That tees them up to apply the techniques on their own and to like reading. It’s what my mentor, Harvard Ed School’s Professor Jeanne Chall wrote in her classic, Stages of Reading Development.

The most exciting finding to me is that the kids volunteered those connections (the strong decoders naturally said more about what they read and ‘proved’ their opinions using text and images more than the weak decoders) without prompting from their teachers.

Thinking along the education developmental trajectory as Professor Chall pioneered, the kids who become ‘unstuck’ from the page as good decoders then pull meaning from text with greater ease and success. Then, as they move toward ‘reading to learn,’ they are ready to apply the information to other language-based contexts, such as discussions in a Belief Systems class or in writing bullet points for debates. Karyn Slutsky, Assistant Director of Queens Paideia School conceptualizes it this way:”At QPS, literacy goes hand-in-hand with critical thinking skills. We challenge students to categorize information, notice and create comparisons, seek connections, explain their reasoning, and elaborate both orally and in writing so as to help them get their ideas to the next level of complexity.” From there, it’s on to top-notch Chemistry lab reports, winning law school Moot Court briefs, and writing a business plan to fund her latest startup!

The take home? They really do take in what we say and what we model. All the more reason to pop by your local bookstore or library.

For great tips on classics or new releases, check out The Corner Bookstore, where your kid can even set up his own account – Add his account to the index card archive of kids’ purchases in the drawers behind the antique cash register- generations of UES kids who grew to adore books at this Madison Ave gem. Or head straight down Madison to 79th Street for great kid and adult reads/programming at the timeless New York Society Library.

For those outside The Big Apple which is your ‘drop everything and read’ spot?

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