Why Read 20?

It’s Almost Like Magic: Read to Them and They Will Learn to Read!

There’s a LOT of research on this and it’s clear: if you read to a child at least 20 minutes a day, at least three times a week from a very early age, they will:

  • Be ready for school1
  • Get better grades throughout school2
  • Get a better job
  • Be more likely to succeed in life
  • Be happier as an adult, with higher self-esteem.

It’s also helpful just to talk with a child, tell them stories, and have them tell you stories. All of these things help them learn language skills, which helps them do better in school.

Kindergarten is too late!

Start as soon as they’re born! (Well, okay, maybe the next day.) Reading and talking with a child – even an infant – helps develop a healthy brain and lays the foundation for learning to read when they enter school.

A child’s brain develops at an incredible rate during the first three years of life. They’re developing basic thinking skills even when they’re learning how to roll over, crawl and walk. Those who are not exposed to letters, numbers, and social skills (like taking turns and saying “please”) start school a full year and a half behind other children.3 And when you start behind like that, it’s really hard to catch up.

If you’re already convinced, stop here and learn how to

If you’d like to learn more about the research, here are some more facts about the power of reading:

Reading can overcome the barriers of poverty.4

  • A child who develops strong reading skills is very unlikely to live in poverty as an adult,
  • But a child who still has weak reading skills by the time he becomes an adult has a 43% chance of living in poverty.5
  • Believe it or not, if a child loves books and reads often, it does more to give him a head start in life than if his parents are well-educated and have good jobs.6

So there’s a LOT of power in reading to young children, but not enough of it is happening!

  • In the U.S., less than half of children between birth and five years (47.8%) are read to every day by their parents or other family members.7
  • The average middle class first grader has been read to more than 1,250 hours; for some children in low income families, the comparable figure is 25 hours.
  • At age 6, children from high income families have an average vocabulary of 20,000 words. Children from low income families have a vocabulary of 3,000 words.

We need to get books into the hands of children.

  • 80% of preschool and after-school programs serving low-income populations have no age-appropriate books for their children.8
  • 61% of low income families have no children’s books in their homes.
  • On average, there are 13 children’s books available per child in middle income neighborhoods, but by contrast, there is only one children’s book available for every 300 children in poor communities.

Read 20 is working to address this problem!

We promote reading through:

So get books, give books and…

Read to a child! (Volunteer here if you’d like to help.) 



Denton, Kristen and Gerry West, Children’s Reading and Mathematics Achievement in Kindergarten and First Grade (PDF file), U.S. Department of Education, NCES, Washington, DC, 2002.

Northwestern University. “Early Academic Skills, Not Behavior, Best Predict School Success.” ScienceDaily 19 November 2007. Link 

Beginning with Books Center for Early Literacy, Annual Report 2009-2010

Foster, Amelia. “Making International Comparisons.” Literacy Today. September 2003. Retrieved April 14, 2008.

Reder, Stephen, ed. The State of Literacy in America. Washington, DC: US Department of Education, 1998, p. 5.

Foster, Amelia. “Making International Comparisons.” Literacy Today. September 2003. Retrieved April 14, 2008.

Russ S, Perez V, Garro N, Klass P, Kuo AA, Gershun M, Halfon N, Zuckerman B. Reading Across the Nation: A Chartbook (2007): Reach Out and Read National Center, Boston, MA.

Neuman, Susan B., et al. Access for All: Closing the Book Gap for Children in early Education. Newark, DE: International Reading Association, 2001, p. 3.


Additional sources:

Beginning with Books Center for Early Literacy, Annual Reports 2005-2006 & 2007-2008 

Raikes, H., Pan, B.A., Luze, G.J., Tamis-LeMonda, C.S., Brooks-Gunn, J., Constantine, J., Tarullo, L.B., Raikes, H.A., Rodriguez, E. (2006). “Mother-child book reading in low-income families: Correlates and outcomes during the first three years of life.” Child Development, 77(4).

Neuman, Susan B., et al. “Americans Child Care Crisis: A Crime Prevention Tragedy”: Fight Crime; Invest in Kids, 2000.

Make the Promise