Reading is Fundamental

A friend of mine told me once that she believed that people are “born readers.” Either you like to, or you don’t.

I disagree.

Right before my eyes, I’ve seen a young boy — Griffin, my oldest son — who “hated” reading be completely transformed into a book-a-week kid, thanks in large part to J.K. Rowling and Harry Potter, who introduced him to the amazing imaginative possibilities that come with writing and reading.

I knew Griffin would love Harry Potter, even if he didn’t. So I began reading the first book to him at age 7 before he went to bed. I read for four nights straight and then asked him if he didn’t mind if I took a break. He said, “No problem. I’ll read more myself.” He finished the book within a week, and read the rest of the series on his own soon after.

As a writer, I want my children to know the value of reading. I received a press release yesterday from the folks at Reading is Fundamental, the nation’s largest children’s literacy organization, that reports that research shows that parental involvement in developing their children’s love of literature is critical to raising lifelong readers. The organization offers the following 10 tips to help make reading a natural part of family life.

  1. Book graffiti wall. Put up a piece of poster paper and label it the “Great Book Graffiti Wall.” Have your children draw a pattern on the paper to make it look like a brick wall. Then encourage them to draw pictures and write recommendations based on the books they have read or are reading.
  2. Record your child’s favorite book. A cassette recorder is one way to enable younger children to enjoy a favorite book again and again. Grandparents, parents, older brothers or sisters can record their favorite stories on tape or the whole family can join in and play different characters.
  3. Read around the world. Help develop geography and reading skills by making a faux passport and a copy of an oversized world map. Each time you and your child read a story about a different part of the world, color in that country on the map and stamp the passport. Continue the activity by doing research on the countries, reading the newspaper and watching the news.
  4. Share your stories. Telling stories from your personal life is a fun way to teach values, pass on family history and build your child’s listening and thinking skills. Your child might someday want to write the stories down in a book for a class project.
  5. A special nook. Create a special place for you and your child to read. It could be a favorite chair, a couch, a child’s bed, or outside under a tree or by a lake.
  6. For all ears. Read aloud to your children, even after they’ve learned to read on their own and are attending school. Young readers enjoy listening to many books that they can’t yet master and teenagers like to hear old favorites. Encourage kids to describe the pictures or take turns reading aloud with you. Even though kids may also read books in class, spending additional time reading their favorite literature with you is also important.
  7. Regular intervals. Set aside a special time each day that you and your child devote to reading. Before bed, at breakfast, and before dinner are common times for many families with busy school and activity schedules. For example, your child can read to you while you wash the dinner dishes or you can read to your child from the newspaper as she eats her breakfast. Even if it’s only 15 minutes a day, you’re encouraging lifelong reading.
  8. Caught in the act! Show your child that reading just isn’t for the classroom. Let your kids catch you reading whenever possible. Try making a game of it. One way might be to create “I caught you reading!” coupons. Each time they “catch” a family member reading they present them with a coupon. At the end of each week, hold a drawing to award a family member with a prize.
  9. A library of their own. Build your child’s affection and respect for reading by helping them create their own personal library. Designate a space on a bookshelf or a special box for books. Add new books to their collection by either getting books already finished by an older child or by going to the bookstore together.
  10. Everyday opportunities. Newspapers, magazines, hardcover and paperback books may be obvious reading choices, but don’t dismiss road signs, menus, billboards, cereal boxes and lots of other everyday items. Read aloud anything with words and present reading as a way to discover the world.

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