Reading is a crucial skill. According to the “Kids & Family Reading Report,” 71 percent of parents of children ages 6 to 17 think strong reading ability is the most important skill a child can have. Not only does reading improve vocabulary, comprehension and logical reasoning skills, but it can also enhance creativity, emotional intelligence and simply offer great entertainment.

Unfortunately, only 31 percent of kids surveyed read books for fun 5 to 7 days a week. The findings also reveal that parents have a key role to play in supporting kids’ reading development. When parents keep plenty of fun books in the home, kids are more likely to be frequent readers, and the more kids read, the better readers they become.

Supporting our readers

Part of the problem is the mystification of reading. “We teach our kids to walk, to talk, to eat,” says Amy Mascott, a literacy specialist and founder of Teachmama.com, “When it comes to teaching things like letters and numbers, parents tend to back off.”

“Parents feel like learning to read is some sort of magical thing that teachers do,” says Allison McDonald, preschool teacher and founder of No Time For Flashcards, “but every day that you’re talking about books, reading books, speaking, singing … you are supporting their literacy.”

Having a dialogue about reading is important, because children are looking for their parents’ approval, and the things that parents do and talk about every day are what children assume to be normal.

“Parents ask about how soccer practice or rehearsal went,” says Judy Newman, President of Scholastic Reading Clubs, “Wouldn’t it be great if we asked ‘how’s reading going?’ or ‘what are you reading?’”

Getting involved

By bringing more attention to the reading we do in our everyday lives, both children and their parents can appreciate the wealth of reading that surrounds us. For example, we don’t need to spend all of our time trying to get kids to read fictional stories.

McDonald took this approach when her son told her he was bored with reading.

 

“Every day that you’re talking about books, reading books, speaking, singing … you are supporting their literacy.”

“Every day, I’ll leave an article or two for my kids to read after school while they have their snack,” offers Mascott. “We definitely want to create a literary environment, and that means having all different kinds of reading material around all the time. It can be books, magazines, cookbooks — anything.”

 “We all need to take reading off the literary shelf,” Newman adds, “and make it accessible and integrated into our daily routines.”

A love of learning

To this end, Scholastic Reading Club and Scholastic Book Fairs provide parents with a wide selection of books in a variety of subjects – not just novels. These offerings take place through school, so kids get to choose the books they want to read and discover new kinds of books that will open their world to new characters, places and experiences.

Newman also believes parents don’t have to cut other media out of their kids’ lives. TV or other kinds of entertainment can be offered as rewards for reading time, according to Newman, who shares a story of one student: “His parents let him earn TV time for each hour he read,” she says, “but reading always came first in their household.”

By allowing kids to choose their own books and keeping fun books at home, parents can help kids cultivate a love of learning that will help them succeed in school and in life.