Washington, Apr 4 (IANS): Reading a bedtime story to your child for 20 minutes every night could improve his or her literacy by at least 10 school days a year, experts have said.
Banking on this theory, an American non-governmental organisation has launched a programme which encourages families to read together for at least 20 minutes each night.
"Read for just even 20 minutes (every night) and it makes all the difference in literacy's goals," Laura Numeroff, a New York Times best-selling author and illustrator of children's books, was quoted as saying by Xinhua news agency.
Best known for her work "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie," Numeroff launched the programme called Sleepy's Bedtime Stories, co-sponsored by First Book, an organisation that provides books to children in need, and Sleepy's, a mattress company.
Dozens of children and their parents lay on beds or on the floor, listening to Numeroff talk about stories from her new books.
"Do you love reading? Do you like bedtime stories? Do you want to be writers?" she asked as the children shouted "Yeah!" in unison.
Numeroff said bedtime stories contributed a lot to her profession.
"My parents read to me every night and that started my love for reading," she said.
"When I was about nine years old, I was so excited about reading other people's stories, and I wanted to write on my own. Here I am, doing it for a living."
"If You Give a Mouse a Cookie" was a huge hit in the US which prompted Numeroff to expand the book to an entire "If you give" series to include a mouse, a cat and a pig.
Numeroff also wrote her autobiography, "If You Give an Author a Pencil," written at a second-grade reading level so that all children can enjoy it.
The author, however, admitted that making children excited about reading even as they are surrounded by high-tech gadgets is itself quite a mission.
"First of all, the kids need to see their parents reading. If the parents are not reading, then why would they want to read? So it's really important for parents to also be book lovers," Numeroff was quoted as saying.
She said parents might need a little bit of compulsion to get children to read.
"I think a parent has the control and ability to say at eight o'clock: kids, no more technology, put your computers off, put your iPods down and we are going to read as a family."
Meanwhile, Mona Thomas, a mother who drove with her three children from Arlington, eight km from Washington, to attend the event, said she reads to her kids every night and they love it very much.
"Sometimes it's very late and we need to skip story time and they are very disappointed," Thomas said.
The mother said reading not only enhances the vocabulary and knowledge of her children but also makes them think.
"I constantly stop reading stories and ask: do you know what that means, or ask what do you think is going to happen next, why do you think the character did this, how do you think about their feelings? We talk about feelings, vocabulary; so I really use stories to cover a broad range of information," Thomas said.
Thomas' eight-year-old son Tariq said he loved reading and his favourite book was "Harry Potter".