How to Get Kids to Read

“The more you read, the better you get at it; the better you get at it, the more you like it: and the more you like it, the more you do it.” Jim Trelease, The Read-Aloud Handbook

I come from a family of readers. My parents, especially my mom, read to me and my sister all the time. They still read all the time. Even now they both keep at least one book by their bedside. My mom read to us so much that my sister and I memorized books before we could even read. My sister was the true master of memorization. If the reader so much as replaced a ‘the’ with ‘a,’ she would promptly correct him or her.

But one thing I clearly remember was all the reading aloud. I remember my parents reading aloud to us ALL THE TIME. There is a picture of me on my training potty, sitting in front of my dad who is sitting on the toilet, pretending to use it. Both of us are reading a book. In high school, I would read my text books to my mom while she cooked dinner. Later as an adult, I would read aloud from books while my mom cooked, or from newspaper articles as we all sat at the kitchen table drinking our coffee.

Just a few years ago, my parents and sister came to visit us for Christmas. I was lucky enough to capture one of my favorite moments in a picture. We are all in the living room. My sister is sitting in my comfy chair. My dad is sitting on the floor in the corner created by the sofa and loveseat. My then 6 year old daughter has a pillow pressed up against my dad’s side and is lying against him. I was sitting on the sofa before getting up to take the picture. My mom is on the loveseat reading from Junie B., First Grader: Toothless Wonder. She obviously just got to a funny part because everyone is laughing. I have to tell you, my daughter looks like she is in heaven.

Besides creating wonderful memories, these moments had other effects. First, both my sister and I are big time readers. This year, I started keeping track of how many books I read. In six months, I have read 85 books, averaging 352 pages per book. Second, I can read very fast. One night while attending Texas A&M, I got so absorbed in James Clavell’s Shogun that I stayed up all night to finish it. I read over 1000 pages that night. Third, it really helps with homework when you can read faster and retain more information. And although there are many other benefits, the last I’ll mention, and probably the most recognizable by others, is that I have a decent vocabulary. While co-President at my daughter’s elementary school, I referred to someone as the Treasurer ‘Ex Officio.’ Everyone looked at me like I had a third eye in the middle of my forehead and that story was brought up from time to time.

Another amusing vocabulary story- While I was living in New York, a few friends and I were trying to decide where to go for dinner. Someone said, “There are a few good restaurants in the general vernacular.” I almost spit out what I was drinking and said, “I think you meant vicinity. In the general vicinity.” Again, everyone looked at me like I had a third eye and I mumbled to myself, “I guess the joke’s on me.”

What’s the point? I frequently hear people comment about how difficult it is to get their children to read. Two really good books that address this issue are:

The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease

Reading Magic: Why Reading Aloud to Our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever by Mem Fox

By the way, the current edition of Mem Fox’ book has a much cuter cover than the edition I have. Not that it’s important or anything…

I read both books and they are outstanding. I never used to write in books. I felt like it was sacrilegious or something. Now that I am over it, I will likely go back, re-read these two books and mark them up with notes and underlines. The two most important things I took away from these books are:

1) It doesn’t matter what you read; it only matters that you read.

2) Children will mimic their parents. If they see you reading for pleasure, they will read for pleasure.

Happy reading!

Written by Christina

One thought on “How to Get Kids to Read

  1. Pingback: BORING! High School Reading Lists « Book Expectations

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