Studies confirm that children who love to read are more likely to not only succeed in school but also in the workplace. Studies also show that parents play a crucial role particularly on their older kids’ reading attitudes and behaviors, as well as helping to find the right book to capture their interest.
Here are nine tips from The Big Book of Parenting Solutions I shared recently on the TODAY show to help parents get their kiddoes reading and hopefully even rekindle that great love of the printed page. (A little disclosure here: I was a former teacher and taught children’s literature so you have to know I LOVE the printed page. I’ve also written 22 books so my bias should be evident).
1. Let them choose. A study by Scholastic found that 89% of kids say their favorite books are the ones they pick. Kids also say a big reason they don’t read is that they don’t like what we selected for them. So get your child involved in the selection. If he has difficulties finding the right book, talk to a children’s librarian, check into a resource on great books kids like to read, or ask other kids for ideas.
2. Find the right level. The big trick is finding reading material appropriate to your child’s reading level–not too high or not too low. Check your child’s last report card or reading achievement scores, which may give you a clue as to what is appropriate for your kid.
3. Think outside the book. Don’t be too picky as to what your kid reads: Cereal boxes, cartoons, the sports page, baseball cards, those new graphic comic book novels are fine. Find what piques your kid’s interest. What are his hobbies? What are other kids reading? Remember, the literary merit is trivial–getting your kid to feel comfortable with reading is what matters.
4. Set aside time to read. Kids say the biggest reason they don’t read for fun is there isn’t just enough time, so carve out a few minutes a day. Hint: Eliminating just one TV show or activity will free up 30 minutes a week to read. Set aside a time where everyone reads and make it a family routine. Encourage your older kid to read to a younger sibling.
5. Make reading material available. Be sure reading material is easily accessible. Stash books in backpacks, bathrooms, cars or on the dining table for those “just-in-case” lulls. Here’s a sure-fire tip: Give your kid the option of doing the dishes or reading the book. I’m betting on the book.
6. Start a book club. Find other kids your child can read with or join with a few parents to start a kid-parent book club. Suggest they pick from their required school reading list (check the bottom of your kid’s backpack) or allow them to choose their own.
7. Become movie critics. Read a book, and then watch the movie together. (Harry Potter, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Hatchet, Twilight, or New Moon are just a few favorites). Then become movie critics and debate if the book or movie was better.
8. Read out loud. Around the age of eight is when studies say kids stop reading for enjoyment. It’s also the same age we usually stop reading to our kids. So find one book to read out loud this month. Reading out loud increases comprehension, vocabulary, imagination and attention, but also fond family memories. Consider listening to books on tape during those long car rides. Make sure to keep it fun and set the listening time to your child’s attention span.
9. Read together. Get two copies of each school required reading book: one for you and the other for your kid. You can each read alone, but it’s a great way to open up a dialogue with your child about a great book. J.K. Rowling proved that kids do read, but it certainly didn’t hurt that many parents and kids read the series together.
Studies show the more books in your home, the greater the chance your kid will become a reader (as well as obtain higher math, science, civics, and history scores). So dig out that library card. Go to library sales or book fairs. Stop at those garage sales. Subscribe your kid to a magazine. Set up a book exchange with the neighbors. You don’t have to break the bank, but do have material available and carve out that time so your child -and you–reads and reads and reads!
Both parents and kids say a big part of the problem is trouble finding enjoyable books. So treat yourself to a great source that listing kids’ top reading choices. Here are a few of my favorites:
The New Read-aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease
How to Get Your Child to Love Reading by Esme Raji Codell
Best Books for Kids Who (Think They) Hate to Read by Laura Backes
Great Books for Boys or Great Books for Girls by Kathleen Odean
The Mother-Daughter Book Club by Shireen Dodson
The Kids’ Book Club Book by Judy Gelman and Vicki Levy Krupp