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Reading to your kid: even more important than you think

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Did you read to your kids today? For many parents it's as automatic as feeding them.

But reading may be about a lot more than bonding or even learning to read, according to a new report. It could be a major contributor to your kid's academic success as a teenager.

The report comes out of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, which runs academic testing for 15-year olds from the world's industrialized countries, including Canada.

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The thinking behind this Program for International Student Assessment, or PISA, is that much of a person's life trajectory can be predicted by these teenage scores.

In a piece called How About Better Parents?, New York Times writer Thomas Friedman highlights the newest findings of the group, which since 2006 has been collecting data about how parents are raising their children to see what relation it has to scores.

According to the report, "students whose parents often read books with them during their first year of primary school show markedly higher scores in PISA 2009 than students whose parents read with them infrequently or not at all."

This so-called performance advantage showed up "regardless of the family's socioeconomic background," Mr. Friedman writes. On average, he reports, the score difference is 25 points, which is considered "the equivalent of well over half a school year."

What's more, merely asking about how school went is gives children another boost.

Andreas Schleicher, who runs the program, told Mr. Friedman that "just asking your child how was their school day and showing genuine interest in the learning that they are doing can have the same impact as hours of private tutoring. It is something every parent can do, no matter what their education level or social background."

Some teachers, not surprisingly, are happy to have the spotlight turned on parents for a change.

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Deseret News columnist Mary McConnell is a high-school teacher and educational consultant, and while she says she's had mostly positive experiences with parents, she describes the news as "ammunition" for teachers.

"I still don't think this takes teachers off the hook. But the findings should challenge a lot of parents," she writes.

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About the Author

Tralee Pearce has been a reporter at The Globe and Mail since 1999, starting as a writer in the paper’s Style section. She joined the new Life section for its launch in 2007. She covers parenting and family issues for the daily section. More

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