In the never-ending quest to maximize efficiency, I try to employ something Tim Ferris calls the MED (Minimum Effective Dose). I do it with workouts through sprint intervals and heavy weights - working out a fraction of the time. I eat avocados for energy, vitamins and fats instead of making an entire meal to achieve the same nutrient results. Playroom Prep is also built off this principle - just 10 minutes a day of concentrated, effective instruction (see dialogic reading post) leads to huge improvements. Further, when my kids and I read together, I do not simply read to them – they read to me as we blend sounds and discuss the words and stories together. (Note - these studies were from Kindergarten - 3rd graders; your 2 year old is NOT expected to be sounding out phonemes! The goal for 2, 3 and 4 yr olds is to have them interested in reading and books in general - have fun with it!)
Simply reading to my Kindergartener would be the equivalent of slogging out a long steady walk on the dreadmill for an hour when I could have gotten better results sprinting for 20 seconds at a time over 4 minutes. Crazy right? All we hear is the single best thing we can do to help our kids become better readers and students is to read to them, right? Actually, it's been proven to be wrong. There is a better way ... and then there is a best way.
The National Center for Family Literacy conducted 14 intervention studies representing 1174 families to see if different ways of reading to/with childeren increased the likelihood of success in reading instruction. I will spare you the p and t - values, but you'll want to know the findings. Different types of parent involvement had varied effectiveness. "Having parents teach specific literacy skills to their children was two times more effective than having parents listen to their children read and SIX times more effective than encouraging parents to read to their children." Good, better, best.
First, there is without a doubt, a positive statistical correlation between parents who actively encourage reading and kids who are interested in reading - whether that is by reading together or working on reading skills or simply having lots of books in the home where parents spend time reading: This is GOOD. Next, there is paired reading where parents read along with their child while providing praise and feedback: This is BETTER. Finally, the BEST results came from parents who let their children read while also guiding their letter sounds, phoneme awareness, word recognition and reading comprehension.
When learning letters in Playroom Prep, we emphasize not for parents to teach children to memorize the names of letters, but intstead to teach the sounds of letters. Bbbbbbb, Llllllllll, Rrrrrrrrr, Ssssssss, Ttttttttt. Using this method, you will notice your child start to sound out words on labels, street signs, cars... etc. Encourage this and show them how to sound out words with specific sounds of letters.
Over time, try to let your little one read along with you. For word comprehension, ask questions like "What does that word mean?" For reading comprehension, pause at each page and ask "What's happening now in the story? What do you think will happen next? Does this remind you of when you ...." It's all coming back to the dialogic reading, but taking it to the next level by helping kids sound out new words.
The conclusion of the study was that parents can have a tremendous influence on their children's reading levels. Sounding out letters and words (sound blending), talking about words and their meanings, asking questions about the storyline - these are BIG little tidbits that can make your reading time most effective (SIX times more effective!). Why not run your own experiment by trying out these techniques with your children - you've already carved out the time to read together - why not try to improve the effectiveness of your efforts?
What is your avocado - what thing can you modify/improve, reduce by half and still get desired or even better results?
Side note - taken directly from the research report: "One of the most important findings here was the dearth of intervention research on parent reading with children in Kindergarten to grade 4. Parents are often told that reading to their child is the best way to prepare a child to learn to read. Given the wide acceptance of this recommendation, one would expect it to have a strong research foundation. The present analysis, however, revealed very limited intervention research on the topic for this age group. Only two of the 14 studies reviewed were interventions where parents read to their child. Most disappointingly, the results of the two studies failed to find support for the idea that parent reading enhanced early literacy." (!!)