March is a great month to reflect on how you promote reading at home or in the classroom. Promote? Yes, we have to continue to encourage youngsters to read! Reading is competing for attention against video games and phone apps. Reading development is paramount to literacy, and children don’t come hardwired for reading – they have to learn how to do it. And in order for them to learn, it has to be taught.

Why this month?
On March 2nd we celebrated Dr. Seuss’s birthday across the country with Read Across America (NEA’s annual reading motivation and awareness program). This was my favorite day of the year in the classroom, not only because I loved all of the attention on reading, but because it just happens to be my birthday too. What better way to celebrate every year than promoting one of the things I love most?

Then on March 7th we had World Read Aloud Day, an awareness movement that literacy is a fundamental right for all people. It was celebrated in at least 65 countries around the world. A beautiful idea really, with almost 800 million people worldwide unable to read or write. Can you imagine not being able to read those fun bedtime stories to your kids? Or not having the teacher with the really great character voices sharing a read-aloud in the classroom?

March 4-10 was Read an EBook Week, which first began in 2004 when most of us still didn’t know what an eBook was. Now I have my daughter’s Nook 1st edition (she has upgraded to the Simple Touch), and turn pages at the push of a button while curled up in bed. It’s a miraculous little piece of technology holding a small library’s worth of books in the space of one thin book. I love it!

March is also National March into Literacy month, sponsored by the Toys for Tots Literacy Program. Started in 2008, they provide children in need with the gift of a book. Donations (cash or new books) can be made online and at participating UPS Store and Mail Boxes Etc. locations.

Ideas for Promoting Literacy: 
  1. Promote communication with young children. Sometimes we complain that they don’t stop talking once they learn how, but that’s actually a good thing, and we need to keep talking with them (not just to them).
  2. Bring out the books early. Even infants can benefit from being read to, and establishing reading as a fun activity early on will set the stage for smoother reading development later.
  3. Model the importance of reading by letting children see your own interest in books, magazines, newspapers, or an eReader.
  4. Fill your home or classroom with reading materials for children, like books in their area of interest, picture dictionaries, comic books, magazines (Highlights, Zoobooks, Natl Geographic Kids), picture books, and easy readers. Teachers often don’t have adequate resources or funding for these items, so donations are happily accepted…when your children outgrow them, pass them on to a school or daycare center!
  5. For young children, use the alphabet regularly in games and art activities. Sing alphabet songs, watch alphabet videos, and play alphabet games online or with learning toys. Point out letters in books, around the house, and on signs when you go out. Teach letter sounds too.
  6. Use real-life reading situations to demonstrate the importance of reading, with recipes, food labels, roadway signs, menus, schedules, forms, maps, instructions, and more. Our world is full of reading opportunities!
  7. Consider buying learning toys, educational games, or books for your child/grandchild/ niece/ nephew/etc. for their next birthday or holiday you celebrate with gifts. It’s not about being the favorite because of some cool toy you gave them, it’s about wanting them to grow up to be a successful, literate adult. There really are a lot of fun choices out there! 

Ok, you get the idea!  Now go out there and see what you can do to get a child to pick up a book instead of their phone or handheld game.

MAT@USC has an infographic of best-loved children’s books to share: