Raising a Reader

courtesyJoannaMy 7-year-old is good at a lot of things that I can’t even begin to understand. He can assemble the most complicated 2,000-piece Lego set without assistance. He can build elaborate virtual cities by artfully stacking colorful Minecraft blocks. He’s skilled at math and art, and he has dance moves I can only dream of replicating. For all of his strengths, my son is falling behind in reading. I didn’t put the blame on his teachers, on his attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder, or him. I placed the blame squarely on myself. And then I set out to help him become a better reader — and readdress how we approach the r-word in our home. It seems to be working! Here are some tips:

Be a role model 
If you pass the time by staring absently at the television, how can you expect your children to do any less? Model a love of reading; let them see you enjoying a book instead of scrolling through your Instagram feed.

Don’t discount their interests
Sit down and have a conversation about the things they love, and do some research and find books they’ll be excited to read. If my son doesn’t want to read a chapter book, but he does want to read a Lego encyclopedia, I count that as a win.

This for that
My ultimate bargaining chip is Minecraft. So, the new rule in our house is one hour of reading equals one hour of Minecraft, simple as that. I always make sure he knows he’s not being punished for his lack of reading; he’s being rewarded for taking the initiative to read.

Extended bedtime for reading
My son has a habit of asking to read after he’s been told to go to bed (in a desperate attempt to stay up later). If he is ready for bed and wants to read, I give him 30 minutes.

Spark interest with a series
When you can pair their interest with a multibook series, you’ll keep them running back to the library for more because they will need to find out what happens next.

Turn off the tunes
Although we appreciate a good jam session, now we listen to audiobooks in the car. Somedays, we listen to one of his books — somedays, we listen to one of mine. I was surprised to discover how much he follows along with my books, punctuating the narrative with pointed questions.

Summers are for reading
According to Bridging the Summer Reading Gap by Anne McGill-Franzen and Richard Allington, as many as 50 percent of children who are provided with 10 to 20 self-selected age-appropriate books at the end of the regular school year not only maintain their reading skills, but improve.

Ask a librarian
If all else fails, consult your local book peddler for advice. Children’s librarians are incredibly tuned in to children’s literature, and they can help a child discover a book to love.

is the managing editor of 425 magazine. Email her.
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