When older siblings read to younger ones, great things happen.
How sibling reading time can make a huge difference in their education.
Often, our brothers and sisters become our first peer group sort of by default.
For some of us, sibling relationships are the longest relationships we'll ever experience. And by interacting with our siblings early on, we learn social skills, like how to manage conflicts (anyone else fight over who gets to sleep next to mom?), how to play, how to share, how to navigate the world, and even how to read.
In fact, our siblings could make the biggest difference when it comes to reading.
That's the whole idea behind the Read to Me Project, which encourages elementary school children to read to their younger siblings — even siblings who are as young as eight months old.
As part of the program, books are donated to schools that choose to participate, and kids can take those books home. They're encouraged to read to their younger siblings, which helps kids boost both their knowledge of vocabulary and language and kickstarts their reading comprehension skills, too.
When it comes to the older siblings, Sonia Aramburo explains the program helps them feel a sense of responsibility by taking on a whole new role as a teacher to their younger brothers or sisters. She's the principal at El Camino Real Science and Technology Academy in Greenfield, California, one of the schools participating in the Read to Me Project.
This program is much needed, especially in areas with low literacy rates.
A study by the University of California Berkeley and UCLA found that Latino kids between 2 and 3 years old were about eight months behind their white peers when it came to language and cognitive skills. And according to the study, the gap continued through ages 4 and 5, with Latino students entering into kindergarten already behind their peers.
The same is true for African-American kids: One study from the National Center for Education Statistics showed that 50% of African-American fourth graders tested below the most basic literary level.
"We are attacking the root cause of low literacy among Hispanic and indigenous families," Mary De Groat said. She's the associate executive director of the Read to Me Project.
And by all accounts, Read to Me is making big strides to fix this problem.
"It helps our students build their fluency," explained Aramburo. "It's engaging them ... one of our students last year was not reading very well. Now he's reading to his sibling, he's taken on a whole new role, even as a student. You just see this sense of responsibility."
Another teacher noted, "This program should have been available [a] long time ago. Our community will benefit in the long run. Many of our students' parents cannot even read their own language, so our students can be the first step for the next generation to be outstanding readers when they begin their journey in school."
Read to Me launched in 2011 in Monterey County, serving four classrooms with 50 students participating, De Groat said. This year, the program is serving 96 classrooms, with nearly 800 students reading to more than 1,000 of their younger siblings.
And now that they've gotten the ball rolling, it's full steam ahead. De Groat says there are already plans to expand the program.
The kids give the program rave reviews, too.
Adorable "thank you" notes from kids to the Read to Me Project prove that sibling reading time can be fun for all brothers and sisters.
One student explains he likes reading with his kid brother because he's helping him learn English, and he says the program is even inspiring him to try to read by himself.
Another student says his little brother comes running when he sees books:
And another says their little sister is learning to pronounce some words because of the shared reading time:
How cool would it be if more schools across the country implemented the Read to Me Project?
Kids might start school better prepared to learn and more excited about it. Siblings might enjoy educational quality time together.
Plus, books are incredibly rewarding. They allow kids to escape into fantasy worlds by putting their imagination into overdrive. Reading is proven to help children with their speech and communication skills, and it's simply a great foundation for kicking butt in school.
This program makes an excellent argument for putting your older kids in charge of getting your younger kids excited about reading.
Because if your older brother or sister is doing it — it must be cool, right?