I hear it a thousand times a day: “Mommy! Can you read this book to me?”
As a teacher, I am thrilled that my children have an infinite love for the written word. Most days, they would rather read a story than turn on the TV. It is a passion they definitely acquired from me, and I know that reading will be a life-long love of theirs.
As a parent, it wears me down. It takes patience, creativity and a well-rested body to read and read and read some more. There are days when I beg to hear my kids ask for PBS or Disney Channel just to give myself a break. But, I am grateful that my children are as interested in books as they are, and I know that it is one of the most important activities I can do with them each day.
Raising a reader takes time, energy and a full commitment from the caregivers. It can also mean that you have to get creative as well. Reading comes in many forms, from the comics in the paper to board books and paperbacks to labels at the store and signs on the side of the road. How much time you devote to reading each day depends on the child and their age. Younger children will do well to sit still for 2 or 3 minutes while you read, and don’t be surprised when your 3 year old wanders off after 45 seconds of stories. The key is consistency and making it a routine. Spend one minute each day for a week, and you will probably find that your child will want more as the days go by.
Older children need solid chunks of time. By kindergarten a good rule of thumb is to aim for 20 minutes of reading out loud a day. It can be broken down into two 10-minute chunks or even less, spread out over the course of the day. But, aim for around 20 minutes, and work towards making it a single sitting as the year goes on. By first grade, increase that time to 30 minutes of read-aloud time. A great activity to do is shared reading, where the adult reads a passage and the child reads the next one. And, as the child gets older, practice shared reading with chapter books, and work on building their “silent reading” time.
While these guidelines do not guarantee your child will choose a book over a video game, it does set the foundation for the importance of reading at home. If reading is a priority for everyone in the home, the children will eventually make it a priority for themselves as well.
Read more about raising a reader in my previously published article, “When Does a Child Start To Learn To Read?”