Roses are red, violets are blue

You read to me, and I’ll read to you!

Do you enjoy reading aloud? Or were you a young person who sat, dreading being called on to read a selection out loud? There is a simple fix for this problem. Like so many things, it just takes practice. The more you read aloud, the better it goes, whether you’re an adult or a young person.

For several years, I’ve been a member of an organization that encourages families to read with children 15 minutes a day, every day. March is National Read Aloud Month, and I would like to see huge participation in our library. Spend time reading with your child every day. If your child is reading, please include having them read to you.

National campaigns have changed minds in the past. Everyone had cavities when I was a child, but I remember the “Look, Ma, no cavities” ads that turned tooth brushing into a routine event. Remember the Mothers Against Drunk Driving who made “one for the road” a thing of the past? Think of the Susan B. Komen Foundation, which made us all aware of the pink ribbon breast cancer awareness symbol and prioritized breast cancer research. Well, the National Read Aloud Foundation wants reading aloud to be as routine as brushing children’s teeth.

What happens when we read aloud? There is a bond that forms, with our children, or with our friends. Carole, a writer, director, and actress friend of mine stopped in one day during the week. I showed her a book called “Joyful Noise, Poems for Two Voices,” and we stood near the front desk and immediately got into the rhythm of Paul Fleischman’s words as we read his poem “Book Lice.” I hope Carole and I will perform a couple of these poems at Story Time some Friday.

Children need to hear books and songs. They need to talk about the pictures they see. According to the Read Aloud Foundation, only 48 percent of children are read to every day, but the number of words children understand directly affects how ready they are for school and life-long learning.

There are states in which parents don’t do a good job of preparing their children for school. In Kentucky, for example, 51 percent of children enter kindergarten unprepared for the experience. In Minnesota, where we are justifiably proud of our education system, 27 percent of children enter kindergarten unready. This is a slippery slope, where children’s chances of catching up get worse as they go farther in school.

It’s not a race, but the stakes are high. “15 Minutes” hopes to have every child ready to read by kindergarten. Children who enter kindergarten ready to learn to read, continue to build skills throughout the early school years. This is only possible by beginning to read to children at birth.

For more information, please visit the website readaloud.org.

Every child. Every parent. Every day.

— Jan Pease is children’s librarian at Litchfield Public Library.

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