How can I inspire a love of reading in my second grader?
Dr. Susan Rutherford (MOM): I think it’s helpful to have a regular time in your schedule when you talk about and read books with your children. It could be after school, when they are resting, or at bedtime.
Start your bedtime routine early enough so you have time to read together when they are young. Really, you can start reading books with a baby within weeks after birth. Get into a regular practice of reading together with your child as early as possible, and if you haven’t been doing it heretofore, there’s no time like the present to start.
You could also share with your child your own love of reading and explain how reading has opened the world up to you. You don’t want to get too carried away and make a lecture out of it, but in a more conversational tone you could talk about cool stuff you’ve read about in books.
Then you could seek out age-appropriate books about things that might interest her or him. For instance, if you have a son, you might want to find stories where the boy is the hero so that he can identify with the main character.
The same thing with daughters; stories about girls her age might catch her interest more easily than stories about aliens.
And ask your kid what kinds of books they might like! You might be surprised at what they tell you.
A good librarian or book store worker can help you find books that are the right reading level for your child. If a book is too far ahead of his abilities, he may feel overwhelmed and stressed by the difficulty and back off from reading. It’s best to start off with easier books that he can master, and then move into more difficult books.
MOLLY: What if you have to force your child to read every night?
MOM: Some children are quite resistant to reading, and really, it’s because they’re having a lot of trouble with it. You start off by reading to them on a regular basis when they’re younger. And then, when they begin to be able to read and sound out words, you get books that are very easy for them to do that. So they can master it. If they can’t ever feel a sense of mastery, reading will continue to feel like work and they won’t want to read. Increase the difficulty level as the child shows he can do it.
With a resistant child, you might want to offer to read every other page with him: he reads a page, then you read a page. Back and forth like that really creates a bond around reading that kids respond to. They want to have that bond with the parent. It also gives them a little break where they can follow along without having to struggle to decode each word, which helps reading skills.
MOLLY: Do you think you should go together to the library or bookstore?
MOM: Certainly. But in the beginning, you might want to have some books already on hand, some simple books that aren’t very long but that have to do with an interesting subject matter for him or her.
MOLLY: This question is for a kid who is around 8.
MOM: Yes, but I would start much earlier than that.
MOLLY: The other thing I think is important is to talk about why reading is so important.
MOM: Reading is important because it opens up a whole new world for children (and their parents, too) that they can’t get in their own physical experience. Reading encourages us to use our imaginations and bring the words and images off the paper and into our own minds. With struggling readers, it can be helpful is to have pictures along with the words to lend clues to meaning.
MOLLY: I think we’d be remiss if we didn’t say that, later on in their lives, reading really helps with things like the SAT’s (standardized college admission tests).
MOM: Yes, this is the beginning preparation not only for the enjoyment of reading – which I consider number one importance – but to also prepare a child for all the kinds of testing that they’ll encounter in their lifetime. A lot of that testing has to do with reading and reading comprehension.
MOLLY: And vocabulary.
MOM: And vocabulary. So when you’re reading with the child, you want to talk about the book with them. Ask: “Tell me what happened in this book.” You start very simply with younger kids and get more complicated as they age and mature. It teaches them that comprehension is very important.
Experience this? Comment below if you’ve had success encouraging your child to enjoy reading. Or Contact US if you have other parenting questions you’d like to see addressed.