Sharing the Joy of Reading

Reading aloud together is a great way to spend time with your kids. Study after study reveals that the more kids read for pleasure, the more likely they are to spend more time doing homework, reading at higher reading levels, and getting higher grades.

A recent Scholastic study found that 37 percent of young people surveyed read books five to seven days a week, which researchers labeled as “frequent readers.” So, why were those kids reading for fun on a regular basis while others were not?

Because they had parents who also were frequent readers!

Researchers found that when one of the parents was a frequent reader, 59 percent of 6- to 11-year-olds were frequent readers and 40 percent of 12- to 17-year-olds were frequent readers. If a parent was not a frequent reader, only 14 percent of 12- to 17-year-olds were frequent readers.

Plus, Scholastic researchers discovered a number of tactics that parents used to raise kids who love to read. The top five actions that effective parents used:

• Let their kids choose which books to read.
• Make sure there are always interesting books at home.
• Suggest books they think their kids would like.
• Put limits on the amount of time kids can use electronics.
• Put limits on the amount of time kids can watch TV.

Even when parents do all the right things to encourage their kids to read for fun, fewer kids love reading as they become teenagers. What’s essential to help them stay on the reading track is to help them find books they love.

According to the Scholastic survey, the top three books that 6- to 8-year-olds love include:

1. Diary of a Wimpy Kid
2. Junie B. Jones
3. Cat in the Hat, Green Eggs and Ham, and Scooby Doo

The most popular three books that 9- to 11-year-olds love include:

1. Diary of a Wimpy Kid
2. Harry Potter
3. Percy Jackson and Goosebumps

The top three books that 12- to 17-year-olds love include:

1. Twilight
2. Harry Potter
3. Percy Jackson, Goosebumps, Eragon, and The Hobbit

I’ve had one teenager who fell out of love with reading and one who fell more in love with reading. The one who fell out of love stopped reading completely. Alarmed by this, I kept trying to find books that would interest him. Nothing stuck. Then I started giving him books that were comic-strip compilations, such as Zits, Calvin and Hobbes, and The Far Side. I then discovered magazines that interested him when he was a senior in high school, like Rolling Stone. Even though this type of reading wasn’t my first choice, I liked that he was at least reading something for fun. After his freshman year in college, he came home and asked if I would buy him Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle. I don’t think I ever rushed faster to the store to buy something for him.

Now both of my kids like to tease me about what I enjoy reading. They know I subscribe to too many magazines. (I’m always lugging them around and reading them when my kids are at activities.) They know I get excited about historical fiction, which they both find dull. But at least they’re seeing me reading and getting excited about what I read. I think that (along with suggesting new reading material for them) keeps them interested in reading for fun.

Plus it helps when filmmakers turn books into movies. Even if the movies aren’t as good as the books, I always notice that my kids head right back to the book after seeing the movie. So whether it’s book-based movies, comic-strip compilations, book series, or magazines, I’m happy for any kind of help to get my kids to read for fun.

Peter C. Scales and Nancy Leffert, Developmental Assets: A Synthesis of the Scientific Research on Adolescent Development (Minneapolis: Search Institute, 1999), 123.

Scholastic, 2010 Kids & Family Reading Report (New York: Scholastic, 2010).

Search Institute, Facebook, “Proud to Read Aloud”.

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