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Once a year friends visit out of town for several days. I have to be sure I have a stack of books on hand for Allie, her 17-year-old daughter. She plows through them – one at a time. The cell phone by her side doesn’t seem to slow her reading. Reading has been her default setting since she first started reading.
I asked her mother how she made Allie such an insatiable reader. Her mother says she has no idea. But when I was pressed I learned:
- My friend was reading to Allie’s older brother as she was breastfeeding Allie.
- She read to her children every night before bed, and almost every time she was asked, she indulged “another book, mom, please.”
- From an early age, she allowed children to choose books to read before bed, to borrow them from the library, or to buy them in the bookstore.
- Allie read to her stuffed animals before she could actually read.
- Allie read to the dog and the cat.
Parents like Allie’s mother like to say, “My child is a born reader.” Whatever the reason, it is a pleasure to see a teen with a book who isn’t continuously texting or playing games on a digital device. Having children who love to read is probably not genetic or magical … and some children need more nudges than others. However, turning your child into a reader regardless of their age is easier than you think, and it has some results that you probably never considered.
Benefits beyond building brain circuits
It is well documented that children who read regularly do better academically, that reading stimulates critical thinking and imagination, and improves language skills. Other recent findings will encourage you to nurture your children’s lifelong love of reading:
Manuel Jimenez, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Family Medicine, and Community Health at Rutgers University, tracked reading patterns of over 2,000 urban mothers (many of whom were single mothers) when their children were 1, 3, and 5 years old and found that they were together Reading (reading aloud to your child) in the early stages of development not only led to less harsh parenting, but also to reading together, which was consistently associated with reduced hyperactive and disruptive behavior in the children – often a trigger for harsh parenting. The study “Early Reading Together Is Linked to Less Harsh Parenting,” published in the Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, supports the recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
The American Academy of Pediatrics advises pediatricians to remind parents “that reading to their young children can enrich parent-child interactions and relationships, promoting their children’s socio-emotional development while also building brain circuits around children prepare for language learning and early reading and writing skills. ”
A study published in the Journal of Research in Reading highlights the role of a parent and included 70 groups of six- and seven-year-old children and their parents. The children received reading material just above their tested reading levels. Researchers Aviva Segal and Sandra Martin-Chang found that parents who read and who have what the study authors call “higher reading literacy (including the ability to identify a child’s difficulty)” are likely to have children having higher reading scores. Most interestingly, parents with “better reading skills” criticized their children’s reading errors less and gave their children more praise than parents with poorer reading skills. They also paid more attention when their children read to them. A lesson for parents who are prone to be distracted or to get involved with something else when their child tries to get them to listen. Listening is a powerful tool for connecting with children, whether it be with reading or with their development in general.
Here’s how to turn your child into a reader
You can limit screen time, impose all variations on digital detox, but beyond the clear benefits of reading, the desire to read must ultimately come from your child. Parents provide the building blocks, all of which are described in How to Make a Reader. Pamela Paul, book editor for the New York Times, and Maria Russo, children’s book editor for the New York Times, did a parent’s homework.
Allie’s mom didn’t have all the answers to turn a kid into a reader, but How to Raise a Reader offers wise advice, including hundreds of book recommendations starting with books for babies and toddlers, even YAs, and adult fiction and non-fiction for adults Teenager. A parent can immerse themselves at any age of their child – a baby, a novice, a middle-class reader, or a teenager.
Reading with young children
Source: StockSnap / Pixabay
For example, your toddler could be clinging to a favorite and it could be a book that you prefer and that would conveniently disappear. When my son was a toddler, it was a version of Richard Scarry’s Cars and Trucks and Things That Go. Boring for his parents, but very satisfying for our son. In this case, Paul and Russo suggest introducing books on the same or related topics.
In a section titled “Pro Tips for Reading Aloud” for your toddler, the authors provide helpful advice, as in any age-related section of the book:
- We read a book aloud with a child, not a child.
- Start with the name of the title, author, and illustrator to understand how books are made. In fact, ask, “What is this case about?”
- It’s okay to replace a word you think your child can’t understand … or to shorten a paragraph.
- Interruptions tell you that your child is listening. If she asks questions or comments, stop reading to hear what she has to say.
- Let him do the scrolling and pacing.
- Read more slowly than you think or sing some of the passages.
- Be aware that your child may not always hear exactly who you are. Ask her what she sees in the pictures.
- Point to objects on the page and ask what they are or what happens.
As the authors note, “In school, children learn to read. At home they can learn to love it. “Although you, as a parent, will give your child a love of reading, raising a reader is a gift for you too.
Connected: Why Jane Reads Better Than Jack – How Gender Stereotypes Affect Student Reading
Copyright @ 2019 by Susan Newman