Ten More Reasons to Read to your Kids
We all know reading is a great habit to teach children. There is solid developmental theory to support reading to children from an early age, but there are also a few practical reasons for it. As a mom of three young ones, and a high school English teacher for the past fifteen years, I’ve witnessed how empowering reading can be. From toddlers to teens, here are a few more reasons and tips to get your kids into books.
1. Potty Training: By the time my kids were ready to be toilet trained, it was so much easier when they showed an interest in books. My kids spent plenty of time pooping while watching television, but it made for some awkward dinner parties. Sitting them down with an open-the-flap type book was how I got them to go the bathroom and avoid a few meltdowns (mostly my own).
2. Reading = comfort: It’s hard to read a picture book without snuggling close to your little one. All those cuddles allow a child to associate reading with a feeling of closeness and comfort. Reading aloud to children does not have to stop as they get older. If they enjoy it, it can continue even into their teens. People are always surprised to hear how much my adult-size teenage boys beg me to read aloud to them.
3. Long Car Rides: We drive an hour or more to visit family on most weekends, and my kids always love to carry their weight in books into the car. (I recommend anything silly, especially if it involves underpants) Even my toddler gets excited to choose and "read" her books for the car.
4. Time management: Ever look ahead towards the end of a chapter to see how much was left, then look at the time to see if you had enough time to get through it? Before my eldest son could tell time, he was able get a sense of five minutes. Reading made time measurable for him. He would ask, "How much time until supper," I'd say, "five minutes" and he'd count the number of pages he could read in that time.
5. It’s fun: Children’s books use fun, silly and invented words. An adult reading strange and silly sentences is a great way to get them giggling and loving words and books.
6. Reading satisfies curiosity: If a child is curious about anything, there is a book on it. From why snow melts, to where babies come from, there is a book for that. This has made my job as Mom so much easier. It also teaches them there are reliable sources to get information.
7. Books help kids feel normal: Most children have a hard time processing emotions. If a book is written about how someone feels, it’s because such feelings exist, and kids know they’re not alone. Couple that with an adult reading to them and sharing their own experiences, and a child’s self-esteem gets and instant boost. When young kids are encouraged to read, then books become a safe place to explore their personal issues as they grow. Reading Judy Bloom's Tales of a Fourth-grade Nothing affected my son when he finally understood how normal it was to be frustrated with his parents and annoyed with his little brother. He became a lot less tense around his little brother after realizing it was normal for his sibling to try to annoy the everything out of him. Don't get me wrong. They still argue. All the time. But at least they know it's normal.
8. Reading makes students stronger in all school subjects: When a child reads regularly, they understand common expressions and the subtle implications of different words. This is helpful in all subjects requiring students to read and answer questions. Students who don’t read regularly have difficult seeing beyond literal meanings. This is especially true for second language learners.
9. Reading makes better writers: Not every child will become a professional author, but all of them will have to write. Most jobs require some level of writing. Good writing may differentiate one employee from another. Learning to write can be a struggle for some children, but hearing and seeing the words from an early age can help.
10. Because you Can: Modeling the habit of reading has lead my kids to love and enjoy books. When my students have silent reading time, I am reading too, pacing the aisles. I've always let my children and students pick out books and magazines, study the illustrations and covers, and decide what might appeal to them. Letting children choose their own books is key. I let them touch, open and explore what attracts them. I allow them to stop reading when they lose interest. If they feel like it’s an experience instead of a chore, they’ll have more fun with it. This takes the pressure off. They might start five books, but they are more likely to finish one because they were given the time to find the right one.
Sometimes, getting a kid interested in reading takes time. I believe there is something out there for every reader, but it may take a few trials and errors to get the right book to hook the right kid, but when they're hooked, it's long-term.