August 28, 2008

Daily Blog 28: Making Reading a Habit

Following up on my recent posts on reading and not reading, I decided to explore the topic of building readers. Some kids grow up as reading adults, many don't. Why, you wonder?

Reading, like anything else, can become a habit - a good one. It can be taught by example - adults who read usually have kids who read. But then the opposite happens - nonreading adults have reading kids, shooting that theory in the foot.

Is it genetics? Maybe more creative-oriented people enjoy reading. Those who think in pictures and can "see" the story unfold in their head enjoy reading.

The barriers to reading enjoyment can vary, ranging from lack of skills, and bad school experiences, to simple disinterest. As one previous commenter said, people will pay anything for a movie and balk at the price of a book.

But how do you price literacy?

Movies are fun, but they require nothing more than to sit and enjoy. Reading engages the mind in analyzing the words, making you think on what you are reading. Is that it - people simply don't like to think?

Maybe it's Bill Gates' fault. In a recent newspaper column I read, the columnist mentioned that computer use made people's attention spans shorter. He even noticed it with himself. Funny, though, that most of us can spend hours, all day and night practically, at the computer, but everything is in small bites. Small bites over time - compare that to a book with its many pages.

So read a book in small spurts right? The answer isn't in dumbing down books so they reach the level of most TV shows or vapid movies that pass for entertainment. It's not in relying on Google and the Internet.

It's cheering to see kids reading. Maybe it's Harry Potter, and now it's the vampires in Twilight, but kids are reading. Maybe a few will latch on to Searching For A Starry Night and find a funny Dachshund "helping" a couple kids solve a mystery. Or maybe they'll find someone else's book. That's the key - find a book and read.

Six Tips to Building Readers:

1. Expose kids to reading.
Share stories with them when they're growing up. Read stories they'll look forward to.

2. Use the library.
The Internet has made researching easier, but the library still has a place. Get your child their own library card. Make it a special event, a parent-child trip to pick out new books.

3. Make reading special.
Whether it's at bedtime or an afternoon read, have that special ritual with your child. They'll know after brushing their teeth and saying their prayers that it's a special time, a few moments to unwind with mom or dad and listen to a good story.

4. Make reading familiar.
Don't make books unfamiliar objects. Even if parents (gasp!) aren't readers, they should at least make the effort to show their children that it's a worthwhile activity. Maybe you don't like to read novels, so pick up a book of essays or a nonfiction book about gardening or a favorite hobby. On shopping trips, be sure to stop at a bookstore or the book section. Encourage the child to pick out a new book instead of a new toy. Alternate if needed.

5. Have books in your life.
Make books a part of your life. Even those who don't read fiction can pick up a nonfiction book occasionally. Have a home bookshelf with your favorites. Build a small bookshelf in your child's room to hold their favorites.

6. Share your favorite books.
Even if you didn't grow up to be a big reader, most of us can remember those books we loved as kids. I loved horses and read every book there was, like Misty of Chincoteague, Black Beauty and others.

Share your favorites with your child. They may like them, too. Or encourage them to share their favorites with you. It's a good way to learn more about your child and enjoy hearing more about what interests them.

(c) 2008 C. Verstraete

** Your Turn: What do you do to encourage your kids to read? What are your favorite childhood books? Please share!


  1. Another tip is to expose your kids to different kinds of books. A kid who doesn't care for mysteries may love historical nonfiction. A kid who reads every new issue in a series of adventure books may also gobble up the classics. Encourage them to read a wide range of literature.

  2. When I was fairly young, my sister plopped me down in a rocking chair, handed a copy of THE SILVER CHAIR by C.S. Lewis and said, 'you'll like this.' Since I believed everything my sister told me, I read the book and was hooked on reading from that point on.

    I still dream about the libary in POint Loma, my childhood haunt. I still remember where my favorite books were shelved and would spend hours in there. I don't have children, but as an aunt/godmother, I always choose books as at least part of their presents.

    My best friend is a nanny and took her charges to the library all the time. Just the other day, Maddie (one of her two charges) asked me to find her a book on ebay. Not a toy, not a computer game, but a book. She wanted a hardback copy of her favorite book so it would last.

  3. I liked this post. Good suggestions. Reading is SUCH a wonderful playground of learning for young people ans so many don't even know it exists. Also appreciated Helen's comment.


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