The statistics on kids and reading in the United States are alarming.
- 1 in 4 children in America grow up without learning how to read.
- Students who don’t read proficiently by the 3rd grade are 4 times likelier to drop out of school.
- 20% of seniors graduating from high school read only at an eighth grade level.
- As of 2011, America was the only free-market OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) country where the current generation was less educated than the previous one.
- Nearly 85% of the juveniles who face trial in the juvenile court system are functionally illiterate, proving that there is a close relationship between illiteracy and crime. More than 60% of all inmates are functionally illiterate.
The question becomes, as parents, how do we get – and keep – our kids reading? In a world full of distractions like video games, HD TVs, computers, robots, and smart phones, what can we do to instill in them an ongoing relationship with the printed word?.
Creating a love of books in our children starts when they are infants and is an ongoing process through their teens, But there are benefits to the effort we put in to make this happen. When our kids are young, we get to snuggle with them as we read to them. Thus, we are not only reading to them, we are bonding with them. As they get older and we have them read to us, we build their self-confidence and self-esteem. Then, when they are preteens and teens, discussing books and the issues they address can help maintain open lines of communication with our kids.
So what are some tips for making this happen? I’ll share with you some of what we did with our kids over the years.
Read to and with your children from the time they are infants. As an infant, your child will enjoy hearing the cadence of your voice while you hold him and seeing the pictures as you turn the pages. By reading with your child when he or she is a baby, you create an early affinity for the comfort associated with books and, ultimately, for the books themselves.
Model reading as a behavior. Have books and other reading material around the house, keep shelves of age-appropriate books in your child’s room, and let them see you not just reading with and to them, but also reading for enjoyment yourself. Even think about setting aside reading time as a family, with everyone gathered together and each reading their own book. This shared quiet time, with all screens off, can instill a wonderful calmness within your family.
Encourage your child to read aloud to you. As soon as your child is able, encourage her to take turns reading with you – a page for you, a page for her. Not only does this instill confidence, but it also helps with enunciation. And being able to display this constantly improving skill is a wonderful motivation for kids.
Treat reading time and acquiring new books as a treat. Whether this means weekly trips to the library or periodic trips to the bookstore, let your child know early on that books are special friends and that getting a new book to read is a treat, choosing it is an adventure.
Form a parent-child book club. Once your child is in school, especially by middle grades, think about forming a parent-child book club with his friends and their parents. This provides a wonderful way for you to get to know his or her friends and their parents, and it is a great way to keep the channels of communication open as your child becomes first a pre-teen and then a teen. Books for older children have themes that open conversation about the issues facing our kids, and discussing those themes allows children to give voice to their pressures and concerns at an age when they often retreat.
In short, books are wonderful tools for learning, for communication, and for opening the doors and windows of your child’s mind – and an ability to read well is one of the primary tools necessary to a successful life. Let’s commit to keeping our kids reading.