How to Raise a Reader

“Ham-ikka-schnim-ikka-schnam-ikka-schnopp!” In the book Scrambled Eggs Super it may have had another meaning, but annually on March 2nd I think it means “happy birthday, Dr. Seuss!” Today is also Read Across America Day – one of my favorite educational “holidays” when everyone celebrates the joy of reading and books – not to mention Dr. Seuss! Countless reading celebrations will take place today nationwide. For the last 13 years, the Read Across America program has served to motivate children – and their parents – to embrace a love of reading.

Research has clearly shown that reading books interactively with children when they are young contributes to their love of reading and their future success in school. Isn’t it wonderful that something so easy and enjoyable can have such an impact? All you have to do as a parent is ensure that reading time is an experience you and your child anticipate with pleasure. If you aren’t already, make today the day you begin reading with your children at least 20 minutes a day. The following suggestions are ones I have found over the years to be helpful in raising children to be readers.

Read stories to your child daily from infancy and reading together will become a special part of your family routine. Making time to read together is a must if you are on a mission to raise an active reader. Children enjoy book reading during the day, but they especially love hearing a book when it’s part of their expected bedtime routine.

Choose books you enjoy reading and encourage your child to take part in the story. Select books that have fun, distinct illustrations and simple rhythmic language. The books children become truly engaged in are ones that have predictable or repeated refrains. When you read, point to the pictures in the book, talk about them, and stop at the “natural stopping” places to encourage your child to respond to what is on the page.

Keep favorite books in the car. If you’re often on the go, they can be a life-saver for “waiting” periods and long trips. Having your favorite book is like having a good friend along to keep you company.

Be animated. Show your child how you can make the story come alive. Point to the pictures and talk about them in an exaggerated fashion. Use different tones of voice to make the characters sound real and unique from one another. Sometimes you can personalize the story, which will make it even more engaging.

Be an active reader yourself. If your children see you regularly reading books, magazines, recipes and directions, they will draw the conclusion that reading is fun and helpful. Children always want to do what you do – if they only see you watch TV, they will want to watch it too.

Read books that are timely, relevant or have a special meaning to your child. Ask your child’s teacher for a list of books that relate to what is happening at school. Your child will let you know which books he or she likes – all you have to do is watch and listen for his or her response. Don’t save a book until you think your child can understand all the words. They will pick up the meaning from the context, pictures and most importantly, from you.

When your child wants to take a book to bed instead of a stuffed animal, you will know you’ve been successful in launching him or her on a literacy journey that will provide a lifetime of learning, entertainment and enrichment. With this thought in mind, go grab a book and make every day a Read Across America Day for your family!

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