Friday, July 20, 2012

Finding Time To Read by Dr. Danny Brassell

Best-selling author David Bach has demonstrated how anyone can become rich using his “Latte Factor” formula, the simple idea that all you need to do to retire wealthy is to look at the small things you spend your money on every day and see whether you could redirect that spending to yourself. Bach argues that people who put aside as little as a few dollars a day for their futures rather than spending money on little purchases such as lattes, Big Macs, cigarettes, etc. can really make a difference between accumulating wealth and living paycheck to paycheck. The same principle can be applied to any parent interested in supporting his or her child’s reading growth. I call it “The SportsCenter Factor.”

You could call it “The View Factor” or “The SpongeBob Squarepants Factor” or whatever you’d like. What I mean is that by replacing some daily television show with equal time reading to your child, you can really make a difference between raising a child who is an avid, exceptional reader and one who lacks any interest in reading and struggles at it.
I’m not saying that you have to give up television altogether. I watch plenty of television – enough to know that Dora the Explorer tends to pause for substantial chunks of time, anticipating that I intend to answer her questions. Shamefully, I know who “Snooki” is. And Netflix holds a place in my heart primarily reserved for deities and Nutella. What I am advocating is that all of us as parents take a moment to examine what is more important, watching highlights of some overpaid felon showboat on the basketball court or reading with your child?

Fifteen minutes of reading with your child every day would be great. Twenty minutes would be better. Heck, I want to kiss parents that read with their children for 30 minutes a day (as a matter of fact, I’m married to such a person, and I do kiss her). And don’t think that you have to sit and read with your child for 30 consecutive minutes. Average Americans can sit and listen for about – what was I talking about? Feel free to space out reading throughout your day.
My mind tends to drift in 30 directions at once. When I was a child, this condition was known as “curiosity.” Now, of course, it is known as “Attention Deficit Disorder.” As my children inherited all of my wife’s best genes and my less-than-stellar ones, I have observed (in between 38 other thoughts) that my children tend to lose interest pretty quickly with a book if I read it for too long. So I simply try to integrate reading throughout our days together.
For example, as my youngest daughter ate her bagel in her high chair this morning, I read her a Clifford book and a picture book by Syd Hoff. We always have books in the car. Mind you, we don’t read them in the car (especially since carsickness runs rampant in the backseat of our minivan). But if mommy has to run into the store for a few items, daddy can sit and read to the kids. If the 30-year-old Highlights magazine or ripped and scribbled paperback copy of Dumbo does not entice my kids at the doctor’s office, we always have our own cache ready to read.
If your child can sit and listen to you read for 30 consecutive minutes, by all means – read to your child for 30 minutes straight. Nothing pleases me more than reading for an hour with my children. I can attest from experience, though, that while my eight-year-old daughter can listen to me read aloud several chapters from The Secret Garden, my three-year-old daughter can barely make it midway through Goodnight, Moon before she is handing me a princess book or a pop-up book or a dead spider (young children pick up just about anything). And you know what? That’s fine.
Don’t force it. The last thing you want to do is build resentment in a young reader. Reading should never be a punishment. It should be a reward. When my kids do an unsolicited kind deed or bring home a positive report card, the first thing I do is grab a book to read to them or take them for a trip to a bookstore or the public library. I want them to think reading is the greatest.
In my home I have found that reading to my children throughout the day builds interest in reading among them. It also acts as a behavior management plan (my kids calm down whenever I read to them). It even fosters critical thinking skills, as my children will often debate the merits of which books we choose to read (that’s a nice way of saying that I’ve had to break-up a bunch of fights over whose book we read).

Do the math. Ten minutes at breakfast plus five minutes in the parking lot plus a quick book before the television goes on and one before bed…the minutes add up.
Please don’t fret. You can still watch highlights from the day’s games or catch up on your favorite celebrity gossip, but why not hold off turning on your favorite television program until the kids are in bed? Better yet, why not treat yourself to a book that you’ve always wanted to read. I assure you that people who read more, read better (and kids aren’t stupid: if they don’t ever see you reading for fun, they are not very likely to ever choose to read for fun). You can have an enormous impact on how well your child reads. By investing a little bit of time every day reading with your child, I know your child will be a much better reader.

Danny Brassell, Ph.D., is “America’s Leading Reading Ambassador,” helping parents and educators inspire kids to love reading and achieve more. A father of three and professor in the Teacher Education Department at California State University-Dominguez Hills, he is the founder of The Lazy Readers’ Book Club,, Google’s #1-ranked site for cool, “short book recommendations” for all ages. Watch video tips and learn more from Danny at


  1. Awesome suggestions, Danny! And I love the saying "Turn off the TV. Turn on life." We didn't watch TV when our kids were preschoolers (except for some videos in the pre-DVD era). That gave us lots of time for reading together - and creating lots of amazing reading memories! I pinned your post to my Literature-Based Activities Pinterest Board at

  2. Thanks, as always, Deb. You rock! ;-)


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