One of the greatest things parents can do to influence their children as they grow up is to model the very behaviors and values they hope to instill in their children. Reading is one of the best examples of this: every study shows that children who see their parents reading and writing are more likely to engage in those activities as well. So we’re kicking off a series of posts about how parents can be the best reading rode models for their children.
There are countless parenting pitfalls that I’ve fallen into. One is stuffing my children’s stockings with plastic junk, courtesy of last-minute, panic-stricken trips to Target and the Dollar Store on December 23. As my children have gotten older, we’ve tried to teach them to place less value on stuff, and more value on new experiences, quality time together, and doing those things you most enjoy. It became very apparent that my stocking stuffers didn’t pass my own sniff test.
Social media is full of perfect families, right? They sit down to a healthy meal each night, enjoy meaningful conversation, and then calmly tuck their children into bed. Is that what your house looks like? We’re usually scarfing down grilled cheese sandwiches as we run out the door to sports practices, my children laughing about burps and farts and me rolling my eyes. Sometimes bedtime is sweet and snuggly, and sometimes it looks like a game of whack-a-mole.
Despite our imperfections, we can all wake up each morning and try to do a little better than we did the day before. Sometimes we will, often we won’t.
We’ve always wanted this website to be a real reflection of real families and their day-to-day routine, and how reading can fit into that lifestyle in a manageable, enjoyable way. In that spirit, here are some confessions, both from the perspective of a parent trying to do her best, and a teacher acknowledging where she has fallen short.
It’s been about six months since we launched Raising Real Readers, although it was a dream of ours for years before we ever hit “publish” on that first post. Since June, you have filled our comments, social media channels, and even email inboxes with questions, concerns, fears, and excitement about your child’s reading habits. We are enormously grateful that you have allowed us into your home to be a small part of your family’s reading routine.
When I was 17, my parents took me to New York City on spring break. We splurged on a Broadway show and saw Ragtime, a musical centered around racial injustice in America in the early 20th century. Never before had my eyes been so open to the mistreatment and brutality directed at people of color. The fact that I hadn’t considered this until my late teens is the very definition of white privilege.
And it’s exactly why books like Angie Thomas’ best-selling, award-winning The Hate U Give are so important. For people of color, this book is an important moment of representation, a chance to see their lived experience in print and on movie screens. For readers like me, who grew up in an upper middle class, mostly white suburb, it is a glimpse into the life of a black teenager living in an impoverished neighborhood. We cannot begin to dismantle systemic white supremacy until we recognize and acknowledge the effects of generations of discrimination, oppression, and violence. This book is just such an opportunity to educate ourselves.
I have a love/hate relationship with Halloween. Love the decorations, the thrill of deciding on and putting together costumes, the chatting with neighbors as we trick or treat. Hate the extreme sugar rush my kids come home from school with, come home from trick or treating with, and the fights over how much candy they can have each and every day after.
One way to alleviate a bit of the candy coma is by treating your children with books, and encouraging family (like those spoil-them-rotten grandparents!) to do the same. We typically get our kids a Halloween book each fall, or we’ll check out a stack from the library. Over the years, we’ve built a nice collection without ever spending more than $10-15 each October. It’s fun to read one or two each night in the week leading up, and sometimes for days after if we’re still in the spirit.
Books are a way to extend enjoyment of this holiday in a way that doesn’t give kids cavities.
At many schools around the country, librarians are frantically (pulling their hair out) getting ready for the school book fair. And it’s a right of passage for children, too… many of us can remember walking into the library with our class, money clenched tight in our fist, anticipating what treasured book we might bring home.
As parents and caregivers, the book fair can sometimes leave us a bit confused or unsure about how to help our child make the most of this event.
It is an important moment on the school calendar, for two big reasons: Read More
Every summer my kids tend to get hooked on a particular TV show during their allotted screen time. Last summer, it was Phineas and Ferb and they spent all their free time pretending to go on crazy adventures like those boys do. This summer, they fell in love with Netflix’s Who Was show, based on the best-selling Who Was series of books.
My oldest son had read a few of the books, as both his school library and our public library have shelves full of them. I love that there are such a wide variety, to capture whatever interests your children might already have (sports, art, pop culture, science, etc.). Most are biographies, but some are about historical events or famous places. The cover art is definitely the hook here: the goofy illustrations look like bobble heads, making these otherwise serious historical figures relatable and fun.
I was driving around town with my 8 and 11 year old children, running errands. I was telling them about a book I had just finished reading. My 11 year old says, “I wish I liked to read like you do.” Then my 8 year old says, “Yeah, I don’t like reading.”
HOLD UP. What? I had to pull over. Not because I’m a librarian, a literacy lover, or even the founder of a website about reading. But because my kids like to read. If I had to list 10 things about my kids, enjoying a book would make the list. Not number one (horseback riding, playing basketball, and building with Legos would definitely come ahead), but not at the bottom either.
When my oldest child was a toddler, I only needed to bring a tote bag of his favorite books to keep him happy and entertained for an hour or more. We nicknamed him The Professor. But then my youngest came along. Cue the Jaws music. His first nickname was The Destroyer… you know the type.
I suddenly had to rethink my strategies for making books a part of his very active, mobile (and developmentally normal!) life.
Toddler and preschool years are crucial in a child’s development as a reader. Even though they can’t yet read independently, they’re learning all the behaviors necessary to do so in the future.
As a point of comparison, clutching a crayon in their chubby, clenched fists and scribbling away is the first step toward being able to write. Soon their fingers get stronger, they start to grasp a pencil and exhibit more control as they draw. It works the same way with reading.
But how to balance your child’s need to move with your desire to read to them in an enjoyable way? We’ve got some tips and book ideas to help.