When Golden resident Crystal Vockel caught one of her children re-using homework assignments to get away with not doing extra reading, she knew something had to be done.
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When Golden resident Crystal Vockel caught one of her children re-using homework assignments to get away with not doing extra reading, she knew something had to be done.“I realized we had to have a routine,” she said. “Even on busy days.”So about a year ago, Vockel developed a strict reading schedule for her four children — Anthony, 6, Isaiha, 9, Michael, 13, and Mickayla, 16.“It was a struggle at first, but now it’s routine,” Vockel said. “I don’t even have to say it — they’re so good about doing it now.”Reading to — and with — children every day is a piece of advice parents may commonly hear from a librarian or teacher. However, not only do librarians and teachers stress the importance of reading, parents, such as Vockel, also see value in it.According to a survey of 2,252 Americans by the Pew Research Center conducted in 2012, half of the parents with children under age 12 read to their child every day, and 58 percent of them have children under the age of 6. Additionally, 26 percent of the parents read to their child a few times a week. Each of the children must read for 30 minutes a day — in addition to whatever homework assignments they bring home. Michael and Mickayla enjoy reading, so they are allowed to read by themselves in a bedroom or other quiet place. But, after their reading time, they must either discuss or summarize the book with their mother.Isaiha struggles with reading, so he reads to his mom for 20 minutes, then she reads to him for the remaining 10.“I want to help them grow and succeed,” Vockel said. “If they come up to me and want to read, I drop everything.”At least once a week, the family also plays games to help learn “trick words,” which are commonly used words the children need to know for school. Vockel likes Go Fish or Memory. Also, there are sticky-notes all over the house — inside closet doors or cabinets — with the trick words written on them.“So, whenever Anthony opens the cupboard, he has to say the word,” Vockel said.It took time for the children to learn their good reading habits, Vockel said, and it hasn’t always been easy. Not only are all four children involved with sports, Vockel, 30, is a busy mom. She works at Pleasant View Elementary in Golden and is studying for her GED at Red Rocks Community College. She plans to pursue a degree that allows her to continue working with children.Her children inspired her to return to school.“They see me struggling,” Vockel said. “But I knew if I didn’t do it, they wouldn’t do it.”Vockel believes it’s important to show interest and be involved with her children. So, when she saw her children struggling with reading, she sought tips and advice from their teachers to help develop the routine.“It’s been amazing,” she said. “It has really helped them tremendously.”Donna Walker, Jefferson County Public Library’s director of public servicesA baby might a hold book upside down, but at least he or she is holding a book. A child may be wandering around during storytime, but at least he or she is listening. A toddler may giggle as his or her mom or dad sings “Row, row, row, row your boat” while washing dishes, but at least the child is paying attention to the words.All of these promote early literacy.It’s all to “help them find their way to the excitement of reading,” Walker said. “And we know it makes a difference.”Turning on the television is easy, Walker said, but reading with — or to — a child is an intentional act parents and caregivers can do for the child.“It demonstrates the value of reading to a child when other people take the time to read to them,” Walker said.Barb Yeutter Roig is the manager of the Jeffco library’s Kids and Families outreach program.Yeutter Roig was only half-kidding when she said parents can start reading to their newborns as soon as they get home from the hospital.“It is so important for children as soon as they’re born,” she said. “It does make a difference. Children need to be engaged.”The Kids and Families team visits preschools, Head Start programs, daycares and preschools in Jefferson County, plus events where parents and caregivers gather, to provide tips and advice that promote early literacy.“The parents are the drivers of this,” Yeutter Roig said. “Without the parents, we wouldn’t have a shot.”Storytimes at the library are great for promoting early literacy, but busy families can’t always attend.“The goal is to promote early literacy to the whole community,” Yeutter Roig said.One tip is as easy as talking to a child, which exposes them to words and language.“The more words they have in their word bank, the more successful they’ll be,” she said. “Talking is the easiest, most effective thing a parent can do for their child.”Suzanne McGowan is the branch manager at Anythink Wright Farms in Adams County.Storytimes at the seven Anythink library locations, which serve Adams County, are generally at capacity, McGowan said.“Adults and parents are really involved with it,” she said.Parents who attend storytimes get tips and resources to use at home, but a big part is the social aspect — “they can talk with other parents.”However, there are plenty of things families can do at home to promote early literacy.Fifteen minutes of time spent together at home reading can “instill a lot,” McGowan said.“Plus, there’s the bonding of parent and child,” she said. “It becomes a positive experience.”Children are constantly learning, McGowan said, so with reading, just like any other skill, repetition is important. However, she also suggests to check with teachers and librarians for new ways to “keep it fun and fresh for everybody.”Susie Spiegler is the reading specialist for kindergarten and first grade at Pleasant View Elementary School in Golden.Reading together should be a shared and enjoyable experience, Spiegler said.In fact, it shouldn’t be forced, and plenty of ways exist to ease children into wanting to read, Spiegler said.Spiegler suggests setting aside time when cell phones and other electronic devices are turned off to read together. Not only will it help build confidence in reading, families engage in sophisticated conversations — no matter what level of reading. She suggests to start small and build.“Let your child be the one to direct that,” she said.A parent doesn’t necessarily have to be a superior reader, she added. “It’s important to share in that learning experience.”Parents who are having a difficult time motiviating their child to read can always lean on the school or teachers for advice.“We’ll put our heads together and come up with a solution,” Spiegler said. “We want to make it work for them.”Kim Ballantyne is the coordinator for Jeffco Summer of Early Literacy program and the Reading to Ensure Academic Development Act administrator for Jeffco libraries.It’s important to think about all the different ways to read, Ballantyne said.Find ways to engage children with all kinds of text, she said, and help them find a purpose for reading. It can be reading a recipe to learn to cook something new or the instructions manual for assembling shelves in a bedroom.“It’s not always sitting down and reading a novel,” Ballantyne said.Finding the right book can also make a difference in children who are reluctant to want to read. Some children like to read fiction, while others enjoy learning all about something, such as dinosaurs, for example, in an illustrated nonfiction book.Either way, Ballantyne said, “find a book that they will enjoy.”
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