There are many gifts we can give our children, but an enthusiasm for reading is perhaps one of the greatest and best. In addition to enhancing their education, we provide them with an enjoyable pastime. There are many avenues a parent can take to promote reading for fun to his or her child.
Before you begin, take a look at your child’s environment. Do you have books in your home? There have been many studies linking the mere presence of books in the home with children’s reading proficiency. There has been quite a bit of discussion as to whether or not there actually is a cause-and-effect relationship here, but I personally believe there is, and I can tell you how to make it work in your favor. For more on this relationship between books in the home and kids’ reading abilities, check out the National Education Association link I have provided below.
It goes without saying that kids will respond most to books that reflect their own interests. Start a library in your child’s room with his or her favorite books. I also recommend buying a bunch of coffee table books – the bigger, the better – that you know your child will find intriguing. Once your child reaches the age of four or so, and knows how to handle books, leave them in a bookcase at floor level so he or she can easily reach them. These books will get beat up, but that’s okay. If you stalk the bargain tables at your favorite bookstores, you will be able to get these for ridiculously low prices. Kids really seem to enjoy those huge pictures, particularly if they have images of their favorite subjects – be they animals, muscle cars, ballerinas – whatever. I have many fond memories of plowing through my parents’ coffee table books – they had two particularly good ones on Egyptology and genetics (seriously), and these became two obsessions for me as I got older.
Further on environment, it is important to model reading for your kids. If you don’t read, they won’t, either. If you’re not in the habit of reading books and prefer to read, let’s say, gossip or sports magazines, take heart. There are many hardcover books out there that are the equivalent of 40 or 50 maggies all put together. (Most bookstores are full of them.) The important thing is for your child to see you sitting with a book and enjoying yourself. (And there’s no reason to toss your magazines, either. Just make sure that isn’t your ONLY reading material.)
Even further on environment, nothing beats reading to your child. My absolute, most favorite how-to-read book for kids is Hop on Pop by Dr. Seuss, which is amazingly helpful in terms of teaching children the relationship between letters and sounds. Anything by Dr. Seuss is invaluable in this area, but Hop on Pop really seals the deal.
Another huge step towards promoting the “fun equals reading” equation is to sign your child up for a few magazines. When the magazines arrive in the mail, point out to your child the mailing label with his or her name on it, and stress that these magazines are expressly for him or her. That’s always a solid ego boost for a kid. Reading sessions built around these magazines are always fun as well.
Sending your child to school with an enthusiasm for reading will boost his or her ego and enhance the school experience considerably. It’s also lot easier on your child’s teacher, who will not have to teach your child basic skills and can instead move on to teaching study methodologies, for example. And the NEA also reports that there is a demonstrated correlation between children reading for fun and higher test scores.
I asked my 12-year-old son if he had any advice for parents on how to promote reading for fun to their kids. This is his response: “This Christmas ask what their favorite genre/series is. If there’s a new book coming out that your child really wants then if it doesn’t cost too much you should buy it the upcoming Christmas.”
Sounds good to me! Thanks, Honey!