Routines at Home Reading
When I speak to Parent-Teacher Associations in school districts across
America, one of the first questions parents inevitably ask me is
how to promote reading at home. The secret to inspiring kids to love reading is
simple, yet often ignored (especially by education policymakers): reading
should always be fun. There are all sorts of ways to entice children to read.
First and foremost, parents need to read in front of their children. Kids aren’t stupid. If they never see us reading, they’re never going to read. Jim Trelease, author of The Read Aloud Handbook, says that “giving a kid a passion for reading is like giving a kid a cold: you can’t give it if you don’t have it.” One of my favorite television commercials promotes Direct TV. A father gets frustrated with his cable television and hits the TV in front of his daughter. His daughter, in turn, gets in a fight in school, starts hanging out with “the wrong crowd,” marries a punk and mothers a “punk” child. The father looks at his grandson in leather and realizes he probably should not have hit the TV set in front of his daughter. So my Direct TV ad would sound something like “when you read in front of your children, they read more on their own. When they read more on their own, they excel at school. When they excel at school, they earn scholarships to elite universities. When they graduate from those universities, they’re offered high-paying jobs. When they earn lots of money, they bankroll your retirement.” The point is, kids pay attention to everything we do. It’s important that we model positive behaviors in front of our children.
Now, one of the things I have learned as a teacher and a parent is that it is wise to have a few tricks up your sleeve. So let me share some of the ways I’ve made reading a part of my family’s standard daily life.
Reading materials everywhere! Want to know what the most read item is in
America every single morning? It’s
the backs of cereal boxes. If that’s the case, don’t you think it is a good
idea to have some books, poems and magazines on your breakfast table? Think
about places where you and your children spend lots of time: on the sofa, in
bed, on the toilet – and stock those areas with reading materials.
Play good, old-fashioned board games. Before video games and social media, many families used to interact with one another by rolling die, flipping cards and guessing where one another’s battleships were. Board games spark conversations, and those are good for developing reading skills. Some games include a fair bit of reading, and that is good for developing reading skills. All board games promote family interaction, and that is good for developing family skills.
Price of admission. Can we accept the fact that television is here to stay? Now, there are still some folks who have chosen to live in homes without televisions, and I applaud those folks. For the rest of us parents trying to raise readers in a world of television, X Box and computers, we need tips. One of the rules in my home is that before the television is turned on, my children have to bring me a book to read. They never protest a 15-minute read aloud if it means they can watch Max & Ruby or The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers for half an hour. Would I rather see my kids not watch TV and choose to read a book, build a model or play outside? Yes, but fatherhood has taught me something our leaders in
Washington could use a
refresher course in: compromise.
Turn on the closed-captioning. Speaking of television, most parents fail to recognize that they have an unlimited supply of text in their living room available on the boob tube. Since the early 1990s every television sold in
requires closed-captioning. So if your kids have to watch television, make a
rule that the closed-captioning has to be turned on. It is very difficult for
any of us to watch a program with subtitles without looking at the subtitles.
Read before you go to bed. Bedtime stories provide great bonding opportunities for parents and children.
Reading can be a good way
to wind down otherwise hyperactive individuals. My own children do not realize
that one can go to bed without reading. Think about how 15 minutes of reading
before you go to bed can add up. The phenomena is not dissimilar to compounding
interest on investments, and this investment will benefit your children’s
reading abilities for a lifetime.
There are all sorts of ways to structure reading in your home, but the most important thing to remember is to always make reading fun. Human beings are attracted to things that they like and things that they are good at, and the more you get your kids reading for fun and spending quality time doing it, the greater the likelihood is that your child will be a reader for life.
Danny Brassell, Ph.D., is “
’s Leading Reading
Ambassador,” helping parents and educators inspire kids to love reading and
achieve more. He is the author of nine books, including Readers for Life:
The Ultimate Reading Fitness Guide (Heinemann,
2006). 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 his website. America