Reading has stiff competition, as books continually lose out to computers, TVs, video games, even texting.
Indeed, the National Endowment for the Arts found that the percentage of 13- to 17-year-olds reading for pleasure stood at 31% in 1984, 22% in 2004, and is in free-fall today. Your schools are working hard, though, to buck that trend. You should, too.
On the home front, reading should take center stage. With Reading at Risk finding that less than 50% of adults consider themselves readers, first and foremost, be a book-loving role model.
Then put these reading tips to work for you:
- Create a cozy reading corner in your home, making it well-lit, quiet, comfortable, and inviting. That and a good book make an unbeatable combination.
- Get your child a library card and be frequent library visitors. You help instill a life-long love of reading by signing out books together.
- Ask teachers and librarians for book suggestions. They’ll share with you the best old and new offerings, matched to your child’s interests.
- Talk, talk, and then talk some more with your child. Conversation bolsters vocabulary, which is one of the best predictors of reading ability.
- Allow your child to swap one book for another if, after 20 pages or so, there’s still no liking it. Leisure reading should be a pleasure, not a chore.
- Make newspapers, magazines, and news magazines available in your home. Load shelves with good fiction and other genre, such as biography. Wide reading enlarges a child’s world and builds background knowledge.
- Check the back cover or copyright page for a book’s reading level (R.L.). Leisure reading should be written below a child’s actual grade level to avoid confusion and frustration.
- Give your child the five-finger test when in doubt about a book’s reading level. As a randomly chosen page is read silently, one finger is raised whenever an unfamiliar word is encountered. Five unknowns suggest that particular book might be too difficult for the time being.
- Persuade your child to always carry a book, thus having it available when waiting in such places as doctors’ offices. Otherwise, promote reading by poring over magazines together, looking out for interesting articles and recipes.
- Track the amount of time your child spends reading, watching TV, computing, instant messages, texting, talking on the phone, and playing video games. Keep reading as the start attraction.
Carol Josel is a learning specialist who worked with middle school children and their parents at the Methacton School District in Pennsylvania for more than 25 years and now supervises student teachers at Gwynedd-Mercy College. Along with the booklet, 149 Parenting School-Wise Tips: Intermediate Grades & Up, and numerous articles in such publications as Teaching Pre-K-8 and Curious Parents, she has authored three successful learning guidebooks: Getting School-Wise: A Student Guidebook, Other-Wise and School-Wise: A Parent Guidebook, and ESL Activities for Every Month of the School Year. Go to http://www.schoolwisebooks.com for more information about how to hook your kids on reading books.