Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Is my kid a reader?

There was no "Eureka!" moment where all reading I did as a librarian intersected with what I was going through as a parent. But I do remember the era. It was way back in 2006 - when I was an idealistic young librarian... Oh right - I will get to the point.

At some point I became concerned that my own children weren't readers. So I decided to look into what it takes to raise a kid who loves to read. And a happy by-product of that is this list of ways to help turn your child into that mythical creature - a reader.

1. Model behavior.
One day I looked over at my beloved husband working at his Dell from over the top of my Macbook and said, "Why don't out kids read?" Maybe that is apocryphal, but there was a point where I realized that we weren't reading in front of the kids unless it was on a screen. Just like using bad language and flossing, the more your kids see you read, the more likely they are to do it. Keep a book on your nightstand. Visit the library. Have magazines in the bathroom.

2. Give your kids the opportunity to read.
My sister and I were both big readers. Of course we were both doughy and pale from never seeing the sun. If your kids are exhausted from playing two sports they are not going to have time to read. If they are playing Wii they aren't reading. Make sure there is ample down time when they can pick up a book without feeling like they should be doing something else.

3. Let kids read what they like.
Yes, I may want me kids reading CALL OF THE WILD but they love DIARY OF A WIMPY KID (which is a fantastic book, by the by...). Your children may hate the book you loved more than anything in seventh grade and you must accept this and move on. Or bribe them with money. Or wait until you have grandchildren. Graphic novels have, in the past 5 years blown open a window of opportunity for teachers and librarians trying to entice kids to read for pleasure. My kids gobble them up like slightly- more- nutritious- than- you- would- think candy. Genre fiction like science fiction, mysteries and fantasy really appeal to certain types of readers.

4. Make sure you have realistic expectations.
Your children are probably reading a lot more than you realize. Magazines, comics and web pages are very popular with kids. There are a lot of ways of reading and while the idea of your child curling up with a good novel is very appealing, it is rarer than you would think. Unless you are extraordinarily lucky it isn't going to happen organically.

Hmmmm... before I wrote this list I thought it would be really useful. But now I realize that maybe I am just spouting common knowledge. Oh well, at least I did it numerically!

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