Start Reading, Keep Reading

Photo by West Point Public Affairs

Congratulations!  Your child is now reading independently.  But now you have a new challenge: how do you keep them reading?  How can you encourage reading when there are so many other diversions out there – sports, television, video games, the Internet – competing for their time?

The good news is, the solutions are not complex and provide great ways to continue bonding with your children.  Just as parents and younger children enjoy “lap time” together with a picture book, there are ways to enjoy books with older children as well.  Here are some ideas:

Have regular trips to the library: When children go to the library regularly, they gain the skills to find books they like.  They figure out where their favorite authors are shelved, where to look for new releases, and maybe even how to reserve the titles they want for the next trip.

Make a trip to the bookstore a celebratory tradition:  Many families like to start summer break with a trip to the bookstore to start vacation reading (and sign up for the summer program).  Seeking out local bookstores while on vacation is a great way to enjoy the “local flavor.”  A trip to the bookstore is also a great way for visiting grandparents to spend time with a child and get to know his or her tastes.

Flickr photo by Joyseph

Continue to read to your child: Even though your child can now read independently, reading aloud can still play an important role in their reading lives.  Children can understand stories on a level that exceeds their reading abilities.  By hearing stories, children become exposed to new vocabulary words, can ask you questions and experience the richness of language through your interpretation.  You can even have a whole-family read-aloud.  For more information on reading aloud, visit the website of read aloud advocate Jim Trelease,  You will find fascinating facts and tips on reading aloud to your child.

Read near them:  While many adults fill their reading time with magazines, newspapers and the Internet, make sure your children also catch you reading and enjoying books.  Then make room on the couch and read together!

Read their books:  Consider reading what your children are reading.  Your children will appreciate your interest, and you will have some fascinating discussions about characters, problem-solving and story endings.  Or you can help them expand on topics raised in books: Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series is a terrific jumping-off point for Greek mythology.  Parent-child book clubs are another great way to explore books in tandem; check your local library for groups.  If you need help starting one in your area, ask your library or school PTA for help.  Many books have readers guides to help you get started.