A Reading Life: From Cereal Boxes to Shakespeare and Everything in Between
By: Amy Waters, School Liaison
When I was a child I was a voracious reader and I read anything and everything. The best cereals were the ones with lots to read on the back of the box. Newspapers were great places for the comics and picking up new words. Those new words would lead me to the dictionary, which fascinated me.
When I started school, one of my favorite days was the day we would get our Lucky Books flyers. I would bring those home with my favorites circled, hoping I could get some. And then, the wonderful day when the little shrink-wrapped packages would arrive and get passed out: Clifford the Big Red Dog, The Witch Next Door, No Flying in the House, Charlotte’s Web, The Brady Bunch, all these favorites came to me this way. The beauty of it all was: I got to choose my own books.
This permission to choose my own books extended to my trips to the library where I would find B is for Betsy by Carolyn Haywood and check it out over and over. I would ride my bike to the corner newsstand where I bought hundreds of comics and to the local bookstore where the owner knew my name and would tell me when the newest Nancy Drew had come in. Being allowed, encouraged even, to choose what I wanted to read led me to frequently choose to read.
Here are some tips for encouraging a love of reading in your child:
- Let them choose: whether it’s to re-read a favorite, devouring comics and graphics novels, downloading their favorite magazine, pouring over a gamers “how-to” manual, or checking off their favorites on the Monarch, Bluestem and Caudill lists, let them decide.
- Make sure they see you reading: the newspaper, magazines, popular novels, weighty nonfiction, or sharing their favorites with them, lead by example. If you want your child to be a lifelong reader and see that reading has value, it helps if they see adults reading.
- Make an outing to get books fun, not a chore: go to the library and let the child use their own library card to select what they would like to read, maybe choose a read aloud for the family to do together (read alouds are great for all ages) or pick out a cookbook together and go home and try a recipe.
- Encourage vacation reading by making a trip to the bookstore part of your plans: my kids (at 31 and 28) still ask if we’re stopping at the bookstore before a family trip because vacations mean getting to browse the shelves and discover the book you want to have along for the airplane/car/beach time.
- Create a bookshelf in your child’s room: Reading is personal. If you browse someone’s bookshelves, you can learn a lot about them. Does your child have a shelf of books in their room that they can go to for their favorites? Does that shelf reflect them or you? As parents, we want to share our favorites with our children, but it’s important to let them have their say as well.
As an older student, I believed in myself as a reader. That meant that I was less intimidated than some of my classmates when it came time to tackle more complicated material like Shakespeare or Camus. In one of my favorite blogs about the reading life of students and their teachers, there was this poignant entry about what killed one teacher’s interest in music and her musing about the kind of messaging we give our children around reading. Let’s choose our words carefully so that children choose to read!reading