FAIRWEATHER: Developing the Habit of Reading in Your Child

Staff Writer
The Destin Log

Developing your child’s habit of reading is one of the greatest gifts you can give. On Tuesday, June 23, 2014, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a policy statement that focuses on the development of literacy.

This statement comes years after most teachers began advocating that parents should spend time reading aloud frequently when their children are young. Carry books with you to read aloud in case you have to spend time waiting. When your child is young, pick the best picture books to read at that age.

Continue reading aloud to your children even after they can read on their own. Read books that are at a higher reading level than your child’s current actual reading level. Children should start reading chapter books at least in second grade. 

The transition from picture books to novels is often hard for children. Parents can help this transition by reading chapter books aloud to their children in the evening. The parent can read a chapter and then ask the child to draw a picture of what happened in the chapter. This activity helps the child to begin creating his/her own mental image.

Children should build their reading stamina. As runners practice lengthening the time they run, young children should lengthen the time they spend reading every day. By third grade, they should be able to read at least thirty minutes a day. Parents need to monitor the child while reading to be sure reading is actually taking place. Remember to have your child read aloud to you occasionally.

Bedtime reading routines help children become addicted to reading. Keep books and magazines handy in the bedroom.  Keeping TV or tablets out of the bedroom encourage reading in bed.

Frequenting the library develops the habit of reading too. Parents should get the child a card to check books.  Linda Sue Park, Newbery Award winner, said she credits her father for her ability to write. He took her to the library weekly and selected exceptional books for her to read.  When she asked her father, a non-English speaking immigrant, how he chose books for her, he showed her a folder he had kept from her childhood.  Spilling out of the folder were many pamphlets published by the American Library Association. This list and many other lists of great books are on the internet.

You might want to make it a habit to frequent a local bookstore or search for ebooks. Letting the child select and purchase a book will show that you value reading. Become a role model by purchasing and reading books yourself. 

By the third grade, children should be reading at least 25 books (at least 300 pages) per year. The Newbery Award Books are outstanding chapter books for children to read. The trick is to find the book that your child will like.  This can be done by two ways. If the child has found authors he/she likes or a specific genre, search for these books. Be sure to involve the child in the search. Scholastic Book Wizard and AR Bookfinder are sites to help identify the grade levels of books.

Subscribing to magazines in the areas of interest of your child encourages reading. For younger children, Highlights provides stories and visual puzzles. Cobblestones (Middle School age) is an historical magazine, while Dig is an archeological magazine for kids. National Geographic for Kids and National Geographic for Little Kids are wonderful for animal lovers. If your child reads magazines, one page in a magazine counts as three pages in a book.  My son enjoyed reading Scientific American in middle school.

It takes roughly thirty days create a habit. Your child needs to spend thirty days in a row reading at least thirty minutes a day. If the child skips a day, start counting the days all over.  Remember, this reading habit will increase your child’s skill in reading and has a big payoff in the end. You are responsible for building good habits in your child and becoming a reader is an important habit to develop. Monitoring the child’s building of good habits is a key parental responsibility.

Tommy Fairweather is a retired Walton County teacher and educational consultant who lives in Destin.