Reasons to keep reading together...even after your child can read!
Sandra McLeod Humphrey is a retired clinical psychologist and the author of seven middle-grade and young adult books in the Character Education category. She is the recipient of the 2005 Helen Keating Ott Award for Outstanding Contribution to Children's Literature, a 2008 Mom's Choice Gold Award, and a 2008 American Authors Association Silver Quill Award.
According to a survey from Scholastic Inc.'s "Kids and Family Reading Report" (June 2006), enthusiasm for reading tends to dwindle in children by the age of eight.
While 40% of children ages 5-8 continued to enjoy reading daily, only 29% of children ages 9-11 remained in the high frequency reading category.
To avoid this reading slump in older kids, Scholastic recommends that parents keep reading aloud to their older kids...and I couldn't agree more. I don't think there's any age limit for reading with your child.
Our daughter and her kids (now 13 and 11) have been reading together every evening before bed since the kids were toddlers, and they still look forward to that special time. It's not only a bonding time for parent and child but also for child with books.
With my grandchildren, that special time reading together has resulted in a love for books and reading which I'm sure will last forever.
Reading together books about historical topics such as World War II or The Civil Rights Movement can be exciting and enlightening for everyone. Parent and child can get into some great discussions about human rights, tolerance, etc. Books such as Yoshiko Uchida's The Bracelet or Gloria Houston's But No Candy can open up whole new vistas for discussion which might never even be broached otherwise.
One of my favorite books is Lois Lowry's Number the Stars, which one of my granddaughters and I read together. It led to her asking questions about her great-grandfather who served during WW II.
When it comes to Character Education, many parents tell me that they read a story from one of my books at the family dinner table and then talk about it together. They say that it's fun for everyone and gives their kids a chance to "rehearse" what they might do in a particular situation before they are actually faced with that situation in real life.
As children get older, novels can provide wonderful material for what can sometimes become some pretty heated discussions. Jay Asher's Thirteen Reasons Why turned out to be such a book. Some of the kids in my youth group had read it and asked to talk about it. Those discussions turned out to be some of our best discussions and resulted in the kids talking about their own fears and insecurities.
If your older child prefers to read alone, you yourself can read the same book, another book by the same author, or a book on the same subject, and then compare notes with your child. I've done this with several of our grandchildren, which has resulted in some great discussions about bulimia, anorexia, peer pressure, etc.
"Coming of Age" Young Adult novels can provide great discussion material on just about every possible topic, and Gary Paulsen's novels are some of the best. They offer a great way to talk with your kids about sensitive topics which they might not initiate on their own.
As a clinical psychologist for so many years, I found it was easier for my patients to move from the general to the specific and the same is true for our kids. We can begin with a general theme such as peer pressure and then move to specific instances experienced by both parent and child. Once I shared some of my own bullying experiences with our grandchildren, they felt more comfortable talking about their own struggles with bullies.
When I do school visits, I find that kids LOVE to talk and share their ideas about not just my books but the books they're currently reading.
Their enthusiasm is contagious, and I find myself making a mental list of some of the books they're reading to add to my own reading list.
Adults sometimes tell me that their kids keep to themselves and don't want to talk, but I haven't found this to be true. Given the right impetus, kids WANT to talk and they LOVE to share their experiences. What never ceases to amaze me is how open and uninhibited their discussions are, and reading together can be a great vehicle for getting these discussions started.
At my Young Writer's Conferences, students not only love to read but also love to write, and their reasons for writing invariably can be traced back to their love of reading. (And their love of reading can almost invariably be traced back to their home experiences with books!)
What I've found particularly interesting over the years is how much there is a "tradition of reading" in the home for these bright and articulate students. Every family member makes a priority of reading, and frequently there are family nights with parents and kids reading together , followed by questions raised and discussed as a family.
Reading to (or with) each other can be a lifetime passion, and I know spouses who have been married over fifty years who still read to each other. There need be no age limit to reading with our kids, so let's feel free to read to do so as long as both we and they find the experience pleasurable.
Sandra McLeod Humphrey's books, specializing in Character Education, include:
Visit Sandra's page at Amazon to find them all!
Sandra also invites you to visit her Web site, Kids Can Do It.
Back to the reader's toolbox.
More reading together ideas at Reading Rockets.
Best Children's Books - Find, Read or Write home page.