Every parent wants to know how to raise a reader and it’s an accepted fact that reading is crucial for kids.

Study after study shows babies and toddlers thrive intellectually and emotionally when they’re read to.

Books help children of every age expand their language skills and comprehension of the world, boost their critical thinking and imagination, build empathy, and strengthen bonds with caregivers.

At the same time, reading can be a source of stress for parents: “Which books should I read to my baby, and how early?

Is my child reading soon enough, fast enough, in an advanced enough way?

How can I teach my child to prioritize books over screens?”

And “Is it too late to get a teenager into reading?”

HOW TO RAISE A READER answers all these urgent questions and many more.

An accessible guide, lushly illustrated by the renowned artists Dan Yaccarino, Lisk Feng, Vera Brosgol, and Monica Garwood, it’s divided into four stages of childhood—from babies to teens—and filled with practical tips, strategies that work, been-there wisdom, and inspirational advice, including:

  • Tips on how to engage a reluctant reader
  • How to organize your home to encourage reading
  • What to look for when seeking out books for your children of any age
  • Protips for reading out loud
  • Great ideas for incorporating books into everyday life—for example, make it a policy to give books as birthday gifts and party favors to your child’s friends, or inscribe a book to your own child for their birthday each year
  • Strategies to “game-ify” the experience of reading to engage an emerging reader
  • Post–Harry Potter picks for the middle grade reader
  • When and why to introduce audiobooks to young readers
  • How to make books appeal to kids who prefer screen time to reading time
  • A YA reading 101—and what to do when teenagers take reading time-outs
  • A multitude of book recommendations for every age, stage, interest, and mood
  • A bonus section of ”books that make us laugh,“ tearjerkers, heartwarmers, family and friendship stories, plus books on self-acceptance, identity, and more
  • Tips on how to engage a reluctant reader
  • How to organize the home to encourage reading and build a library
  • Reasons not to push Harry Potter too soon

HOW TO RAISE A READER provides insider know-how to parents searching for the tools to instill a lifelong love of reading in their children, setting them up for success in the larger world. School is where children learn how to read.

Home is where they can learn to love reading.

People reading How to Raise a Reader will be very interested in six popular myths about childhoood reading, debunked.

Six Popular Myths About Childhood Reading, Debunked

Myth: Reading aloud to my child is the most important factor in making sure they grow up to be a strong reader.

Reality: Reading to your child is incredibly important, for all kinds of reasons.

But recent studies show that having lots of books in the home is just as important.

A child who’s surrounded by books is very likely to grow up to be a reader. If the adults in the home are reading their own books and enjoying them, too, all the better.

Myth: The earlier a child learns to read independently, the better a reader he will be for life.

Reality: The age your child learns to read is not actually related to future reading skills or overall cognitive ability.

Every kid learns to read on a highly personal schedule – that’s why in many European countries, reading instruction doesn’t even begin until age 7 or 8 as many children’s brains — and especially boys’ — are not ready for decoding (an essential part of reading) until then.

Often, the best and most voracious readers start reading later, when they can comprehend more sophisticated material that catches their interest and inspires them to read more.

Myth: Reading the same book over and over means your child is stuck.

Reality: We benefit from re-reading at every age. Babies and toddlers profit from hearing books read over and over (and over) as they begin to understand the meanings tied to the sounds and recognize cadences and familiarize themselves with the words.

Older children benefit emotionally and cognitively from re-reading and revisiting their “comfort books.” And often deeper themes will only make themselves known after a second reading.

This is true of adults as well; many like to read a book or see a movie a second or third time, not only to enjoy it again, but also to appreciate it more.

Myth: Parents should work with their children, starting in preschool, to teach them to read, then help them progress year by year.

Reality: School is where children learn to read. Home is where children learn to love to read. It’s not a parent’s job to teach their child to read.

Rather than asking “When will he start reading?” or “What reading level is he on?” parents should instead ask “How can I help him want to read?,” “What books will she truly enjoy?” and “how can we as a family enjoy reading together?”

Prodding and pressuring a child whose brain not ready to read is not only futile but it can create negative associations around books. Approach reading as a pleasure delivery system and you’re more likely to be successful.

Myth: I can’t wait to read Harry Potter to my child!

RealityHarry Potter is fantastic. But there’s no reason to rush to these books; children will get to them when they are ready. The first Harry Potter book was written for ages 8 to 12. The later books are meant for ages 10 and up.

Parents don’t need to push Harry Potter in any way or prove that your child is “old enough” for Harry. Let children get to Harry Potter on their own.

Myth: Once they’re reading chapter books independently, it’s time to move on from picture books.

Reality:  Picture books are works of art and are perfect vehicles to deliver rich storytelling.

Just as a parent would want their child to appreciate the artwork in museums, they can invite them to embark on a lifetime of appreciating art in books.

Picture books should stay in the picture all through childhood – and beyond.

And once a child begins to read independently, parents should still hold on to illustrated books of all kinds — including graphic novels, which are increasingly popular for many reasons, not least because they are one of the best ways to teach a reluctant reader (or any reader) how to appreciate story. And remember: coffee table books are picture books for people of all ages.

Authors: Maria Russo is co-author of How to Raise a Reader and the children’s books editor of the New York Times Book Review.

She has been a writer and editor at the Los Angeles Times, the New York Observer, andSalon, and holds a Ph.D. in English and Comparative Literature from Columbia University. She lives in Montclair, New Jersey, with her husband and three children. You can find her on Twitter at @mariarussonyt.

Pamela Paul is the co-author of How to Raise a Reader and the editor of the New York Times Book Review. Sheoversees books coverage at the New York Times, which she joined in 2011 as the children’s books editor.

She is also the host of the weekly Book Review podcast for the Times. She is the author and editor of five books, most recently, My Life with Bob: Flawed Heroine Keeps Book of Books, Plot Ensues. 

Her work has appeared in the Atlantic, theWashington Post, the New York Times Magazine, Time, the New York Times Education Life, the EconomistVoguePsychology Today, and other national publications.

You can find her on Twitter at @PamelaPaulNYT, on Instagram at@pamelapaul2018, on Facebook at @PamelaPaulNYT, and on her website pamelapaul.com.

Related articles on reading