This article originally appeared on Fatherly.
Growing up without developing a love of reading is like hitchhiking across the galaxy without a towel: you could do it, but it’s not recommended. Unless your kid is Floyd Mayweather, not reading will almost certainly dim their future prospects. The good news is that if you read (and you clearly do), the battle is half won. The bad news is that 66 percent of fourth graders in this country are reading below the basic level, which means parents everywhere need to step up their “Love Of Reading” game.
Your role in all this is pretty obvious, according to Julie Rodriguez, who is the Vice President Of Literary Services for Reading Is Fundamental, the country’s largest nonprofit devoted to promoting reading to young kids. “I don’t even remember him not reading to me,” Rodriguez says of her own father, who she credits with getting her hooked early with Mark Twain books. “I know someone whose dad read baseball stats with his child. Share what you love, and increase their vocabulary.”
Just in case you don’t like Mark Twain or baseball stats, here are few other tips to ensure you’re not raising Floyd Mayweather.
1. Do As Elementary School Teachers Suggest Long Before You Meet Their Elementary School Teacher
It’s never too soon to start reading to your kid. Apply these reading tips you’ll someday hear in parent/teacher conferences, and you’ll not only do wonders for your kid’s educational development, you’ll know what to mumble off whenever you get accused of not paying attention at a parent/teacher conference:
Ritualize a reading time 5-7 days per week
Alternate reading nights with your spouse to offer a new perspective and voice
Get weird with the voices when you read
Read when your kid’s around. Your example is a major factor
Visit the library regularly and let your kid select whatever they want
2. Don’t Complain About Reading The Same Books Over And Over
Rodriguez’s 3 kids could each read before kindergarten, and she attributes it to putting “miles on the page” with them on their favorite books: “They just need to hear it over and over again, point to the word, and have that access. It’s OK to read the same book 5,000 times.” Mind numbing and torturous for you, but OK.
If you want to cover those miles a little quicker, try Green Eggs And Ham first. It only has 50 words because Theodor Geisel’s (aka Dr. Seuss) publisher bet him 50 bucks he couldn’t do it. You can rest easy once your kid can cover 50 words, because no matter what happens in life, at least they’ll qualify for a job at the DMV.
3. Occasionally Read Them Something You Want To Read
Reserve a couple nights every week to put down the picture book you’ve read 5,000 times in favor of a classic you love. For Rodriguez’s dad, that meant not just Mark Twain, but Jack London and John Steinbeck and Ernest Hemingway. “They were far above what my little 6- or 5-year-old brain could handle, but I loved listening to him read it and that shared experience.” Bonus points for letting them hear their first swear words in the name of literacy.
4. Create Activities Around Elements In The Book
Make a book exciting and not just a bedtime precursor by using its thematic elements to inspire fun stuff in the real world. Rodriguez gives the example of A Balloon For Isabel about a forlorn porcupine who can’t get a balloon like the other kids because she’ll pop it, so Isabel solves the problem by putting gumdrops on her quills. Rodriguez created an entire lesson plan around balloon science experiments, but even if you just use the book as an excuse to stick gumdrops on toothpicks with your kid (and then eat them), you’ll be strengthening their connection to the book.
5. Or Just Try One Of These Titles
If Rodriguez was a gambler, she would put her money on any kid loving these 5 books:
Froggy Gets Dressed: A frog gets dressed as your kid giggles at the word “underwear.”
Wolf!: A wolf learns to read to impress his new farmyard friends instead of eating them.
The Day The Crayons Quit: Crayons not only have feelings; they’re tired of working for your kid.
Possum Come A-Knockin’: A possum plays ding-dong-ditch on a family of G-droppin’ country folk.
Where The Wild Things Are: An impish boy overcomes punishment with megalomaniac delusions.
There are other tricks to ensuring you kid loves to read — you can pull the ol’ The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe in their actual wardrobe! bit, which is rock solid. You can stock your home with the exact right number of books. But, mostly, you just need to make sure you kid sees a page at least as often as they see a screen. And talk funny when you read to them. Do that enough, and it should be smooth sailing.
By the way, that earlier advice about the towel? That came from a book.
(Photo: Getty Images)
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