I'm a believer in reading aloud to children.
For me, it's not about raising pretentious, over-achieving, super-smart, grade-skipping, Doogie Howser children. It's about raising life-long readers, come what may.
I can't recommend highly enough The Read-Aloud Handbook, by Jim Trelease. I've read the fifth edition and am currently reading the sixth edition of this fantastic book. His website has lots of information, including lengthy excerpts from the book itself.
Perhaps it's a stretch to the 'Contrast' theme, but here a a couple of statistics that show the difference, or 'Contrast,' if you will, between the home environment of young children who exhibit an interest in books and those who do not.
Mother reads during leisure time:
78.6% High Interest / 28.1% Low Interest
Father reads during leisure time:
60.7% High Interest / 15.8% Low Interest
Child is read to daily
76.8% High Interest / 1.8% Low Interest
Child is taken to library:
98.1% High Interest / 7.1% Low Interest
Another statistic I was amazed by involves vocabulary beyond the six thousand (or so) most common words making up the 'Common Lexicon' in the English language. This study calls them "rare words."
It tracks the number of rare words per thousand that one encounters from both aural sources and from reading:
Adult to child (6 months): 9.3
Adult to child (3 years): 9.0
Adult to child (10 years): 11.7
Adult to Adult: 17.3
Prime Time TV: 22.7
and now, Reading:
Children's book: 30.9
Adult Book: 52.7
Comic Book: 53.5
Popular magazine: 65.7
Scientific paper: 128
What amazed me was that even children's literature contains more instances of rare words than Adult conversation (and Prime Time TV).
Okay, enough with the statistics. The Read-Aloud Handbook is more than a bunch of statistics. One of the most interesting parts consists of personal accounts from parents and teachers and administrators explaining how they have implemented read aloud into their spheres of influence and the positive differences that it has made. Another wonderful thing about the book is that it contains a large "Treasury of Read-Alouds." It's sorted by style and age groups, to assist in finding good material from which to start your journey.
My one-year-old, Harrison, who will be two in December, constantly brings me his entire stack of a dozen or so books, one book at a time, before he'll crawl up in my lap to actually look at them. He loves pointing out objects he recognizes and making his versions of animal sounds.
With Hannah, my six-year-old, I have just finished reading L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and we have just started Lewis Carroll's The Adventures of Alice in Wonderland. I love finding books that neither one of us have read and enjoying them together.
Finally, a brief word of thanks to my friend, Jen, who shared her excitement for The Read-Aloud Handbook with me several years ago. We had always read to Hannah -- even when she was very young, but after Jen's recommendation, I did so with a new vigor and purpose. Thanks, Jen!!
More 'Contrast' at Self Portrait Challenge.