Mothers Can Improve Children's Academic Success by Reading

On May 11 -- the day of celebrating the mothers in our lives and all they do for us -- the National Center for Family Literacy is encouraging moms to renew their commitment to making reading a daily habit for the family.

"Those fond times spent in a rocking chair reading with your mom are more than memories," said Sharon Darling, president & founder of the National Center for Family Literacy. "They are critical for children's future academic success. That's right, your performance on tests and in school is greatly influenced by your mother's education level and involvement in your schooling."

But literacy in the home can be a challenge for busy families. Consider a National Endowment for the Arts survey that reported an overall decline of 10 percent for reading literature among all ages. The largest decline was among the youngest age groups -- 28 percent.

"Many moms wonder what they can do to help their children be successful in school. The answer is surprisingly simple," Darling said. "Many of the things parents do with their children as they work, play, read and talk together have an impact on the skills needed to become a confident and competent student. Singing songs, making up silly rhymes, talking about what you see, pointing out letters and words in the environment and reading together are just a few activities parents can do."

Parents support their children's learning as they talk at the dinner table, play games together, share household chores or ride in the car. Here are a few easy things moms can do to give literacy a boost at home:

• Make reading a family habit. Everyone should have a library card and teach children that reading is fun. Create reading rituals by setting aside a special time and place every day to enjoy stories without interruptions. In addition, by cuddling closely with your child to foster a sense of security, you eliminate stress, which scientists have found produces a hormone that blocks learning;

• Take advantage of free resources developed through research of best practices. New, portable learning opportunities provide free online educational tools through a website portal called Resources include a parent activity calendar, which offers activities for families to build important literacy skills together, plus a series of podcasts on the topic of sharing stories with children. These activities can be found at: In addition, NCFL recently released a free 16-page magazine called Cultivating Readers contains dozens of tips and activities. It is available by contacting

• Use mealtimes as an opportunity to drive learning. Pilot programs have shown success in incorporating mealtime with literacy. In Southern California, the McDonald's Family Mealtime Literacy Nights have resulted in 90 percent of families attending the entire five-week program, and parents using its strategies and materials at home to improve literacy skills;

• Make literacy and reading activities portable: As you're driving across town or on vacation, look for signs with words that begin with the same letters as child's name. Play "My Grandmother's Trunk," an old favorite that helps with learning the alphabet. One child says: "My grandmother is going on a trip, and in her trunk she packed an apple."

Each person remembers what the other items were and adds an item that begins with the next letter of the alphabet. Make up rhymes using words or items you see as you drive along or alliteration statements where all the words begin with the same sound. See how long you can keep the rhyme or alliteration statement going; and

• Use certain techniques for reading that have been proven to increase effectiveness in reading time, including:

• Providing sound effects to capture their attention;

• Making connections between the spoken and written word because hearing sounds in words is a basic skill needed for reading;

• Talking about the story to reinforce comprehension and memory skills; and

• Reading it again because repetition helps children recognize and remember words.

Source: The National Center for Family Literacy,