How often do you read with your child? Research shows it’s something you need to do every day with your child, but most parents don’t realize just how important it is.

The Raising a Reader program will be hitting up Mandan schools this year.

It’s a completely free program that brings mom, dads, and children together all through the art of reading. Children who are not reading at the proper reading level by the time they are in third grade have a significantly lower chance of ever catching up.

Mandan Public School’s Literacy Coordinator, Vonda Dahl says, “When they start kindergarten, they should really already have in place some great foundational skills for literacy. If you wait till kindergarten it’s almost too late.”

There’s a lot of brain development happening between a child’s birth and when they start school. That’s why Mandan launched Raising a Reader, and it’s not like your typical reading program.

“Raising a Reader takes high-quality literature, engaging pictures, good vocabulary, great text, and combines it with training for parents on how to read with their children,” says Dahl.

It’s not just about reading a book from the beginning to the end but really emphasizing engagement between the caregiver, the child, and the book.

“So they are talking about it,” Dahl adds, “They are asking questions, they are predicting what might happen on the next page, they are talking about the pictures, and they are creating symbolic representation so when they see a cow and the parent says, ‘what is that animal?’ and they say its a cow and a cow says moo and the next time the child sees that picture they make that connection.”

Mandan hopes this 25-week program will also ease any intimidating factors when it comes to reading with children and their parents.

“We kind of want to lower those barriers, so by the time they walk into kindergarten we want them to feel comfortable and at ease. ‘Yeah we have been here lots of times …’ so that’s kind of been a secondary goal.”

I spoke with some parents who tell me they are excited to have a program that gets kids reading at a young age.

Parent, Brittany Ryckma says, “The earlier kids start to read will be the love of reading instead of when the kids don’t start to read … they won’t start to like it. I have friends that didn’t read as a child and they really hate reading now.”

And at the end of the day, they think it will bring in some quality bonding time.

Dahl says, “Speak with your child ask questions, allow them to respond to you, and make conversation apart of your everyday life and read read read read.”

This program is new to North Dakota, and Bismarck and Minot public schools offer it as well. Raising a Reader has reached over a million families across the country during the past 15 years.

For more information about the program and how to register, click here.