Wednesday, September 18, 2019

How To Raise A Reader


How does one raise a reader?

Well, it takes a village – parents, grandparents, childcare providers, teachers, librarians.  That’s right, it comes down to our society to raise a reader.

Ask yourself:

·         Do you model good reading behavior?
·         Do you encourage and reward those who read books?
·         Do you discuss books with a child?
·         Do you help make books available to a child?
·         Do you read to children?

Here are the key facts on book reading:

·         Start introducing books early to a child – and often.
·         Get them to read anything on any topic – let their curiosity lead the way.
·         Incorporate photos, illustrations, and charts to supplement the text.
·         Talk about books with as much passion as you do movies, television shows, or plays.
·         Encourage reading for fun and show children the power they achieve with knowledge.

‘By being part of your child’s reading life – by setting out purposefully to raise a reader – you’re helping her become someone who controls her own destiny,” says a new book, How to Raise a Reader.  “School is where children learn that they have to read.  Home is where kids learn to read because they want to.  It’s where they learn to love to read.”

The book’s co-authors, Pamela Paul and Maria Russo, are New York Times Book Review editors, and they are on a mission.  It’s a good one.

The world needs more readers.

The book is all over the place.  I saw ads in a number of publications and author appearances are everywhere.  The book just came out in September, in time for a new school year, but I got a preview of their book when I heard them speak on a panel at Book Expo America in June.  They are each mothers of three kids and seem to speak from a professional knowing and a personal feeling.

Is reading the carefree pleasure it has been?  Can books compete in a tech-centric, video-everywhere world? Do books still seem special?

“Books are a pleasure and they anchor your greater values,” the authors said in their book.

They make many suggestions on how we can raise readers who thrive in a book culture.  They also have lots of favorite books based on the ages of readers.  

I couldn’t disagree with anything in their book, especially this statement:  “There may be no sweeter part of parenthood than the ritual of reading books before your child falls asleep.”

It seems hard to believe that about 10% of Americans are not literate.  It could be any number of reasons at play – English as a second language, learning, disorders, lack of education, physical handicaps, etc.  It’s even harder to imagine a child growing up in America today without the skills of being a good reader.

Not only do we need to read well, it’s such a pleasurable skill to possess.  For some, reading books is not a choice and doesn’t come naturally.  But it is imperative that we help raise children to become proficient readers.One of the best ways to introduce reading to kids is to read aloud to them.

The authors suggest these strategies to achieve maximum interest from the child:

·         Find a comfy position for you and child.
·         Sit facing your child so that you can read and then show the book to him or her.
·         Always begin with the book title, name of author, and illustrator.
·         Make things animated with funny voices -- but only if it works – otherwise go back to a normal voice.
·         If what you are reading is boring your kid, move on to something else.
·         Enjoy interruptions from your child – that means they are engaged and asking questions.
·         Let the child turn the pages and feel involved.
·         Read slowly -- let them suck in the flavor of the book.
·         With toddlers, point at objects on the page and invite them to tell you what they are.

One bit of good advice you should be aware of is that kids and adults are not always on the same page: The authors concluded: “Keep in mind that your child isn’t always reading quite the same story you are. As you’re reading out loud, with your mind focused on the text, and the child is listening to your words, she is, at the same time, following the story through the illustrations. She might see things you don’t see.”

Below are select excerpts from the book:

Expand Minds
“Toddlerhood is when you can use books to expand your child’s world, so be sure to read them all kinds of books.  Don’t be afraid to expose even the smallest toddlers to subjects for which they don’t have any context.  All topics - from geology to the history of art to life in different cultures – can be broken down into small parts and made interesting and understandable by a great children’s book.   A child doesn’t have to have been to a beach to read about one.

“Literacy experts talk about the need for a child to be exposed to books that are both :mirrors and windows” – some should be mirrors in which a child can see herself reflected, and others should be windows into the experiences of people who are different.  By giving your toddler both kinds of books, you’re helping with the task of learning how to value and respect himself while also valuing and respecting others.

“There may be no sweeter part of parenthood than the ritual of reading books before your child falls asleep”.

Time To Be A Reader?
“All parents ask themselves the same question:  When will my child begin reading?  That magical breakthrough moment – when your child shows an interest in letters and begins to make out words on a page or out in the world – occurs at different ages for different children, even within the same family.  Some children are 4 when it happens, others are 6 or 7.  Sometimes it happens earliest with the oldest child in a family; other times, with the youngest.”

For the Love of Books
“At this stage, it’s important to keep sprinkling the fairy dust around reading and books whenever you see an opportunity.  There are many ways to convey to your child how much you value books.  Carefully gift wrap books you are giving to others.  Ooh and ahh over them.  Show your own excitement when a sequel comes out that you’ve been dying to read, or when your name comes up on the library waitlist for the latest prize-winning novel.  At the dinner table, make “what you’re reading” as regular a part of conversation as what you’re watching on TV or what happened that day at the office.  Become a fountain of positive vibes and good conversation about individual books and reading in general.  This kind of enthusiasm is flat -out contagious, and can help carry an emerging reader through this period he may find challenging.”

A Big-Kid Thing
“You can also make it clear to your child that reading is associated with maturity.  Reading is quite a grown-up pastime, after all. It can be private or even secret.  If your child’s bedtime is seven o’clock, offer an extended thirty minutes of quiet bedtime reading to be used only if he wants to stay in bed and read.  This turns reading into a privilege – something big kids “get” to do rather than something that “has” to be done.  Otherwise, it’s lights out at seven o’clock sharp.”

The First Library Card
“A child’s first library card represents a rite of passage, and it is often the very first official membership card in a young life.  Many libraries don’t have a minimum age requirement, so help your child acquirer the card at a time when it can have an effect.”

Keep Books in the Conversation
“Just as you routinely ask your kids about their day (which may get you minimal response, but you still keep asking) or talk about the latest Netflix series, regularly ask your kids what they’re reading, whether for school or for pleasure.  Talk with your spouse at dinner about what you’re reading.  Acknowledge your teenager’s maturity and sophistication in this way, and welcome her questions and input, even if she hasn’t read the book.”

“The pursuit of truth and beauty is a sphere of activity in which we are permitted to remain children all our lives.”

“The oldest, shortest words –“yes” and “no” –are those which require the most thought.”

“Men, or mankind, is divided into two parts or sorts:  the one seeketh and doth not find; another findeth and is not contented.”
--Ali Ibn Abi Talib

 “At the Day of Judgment we shall not be asked what we have read but what we have done; nor how well we have spoken, but how holily we have lived.”
--Thomas A. Kempis 

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Brian Feinblum’s insightful views, provocative opinions, and interesting ideas expressed in this terrific blog are his alone and not that of his employer or anyone else. You can – and should -- follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels much more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog ©2019. Born and raised in Brooklyn, he now resides in Westchester. His writings are often featured in The Writer and IBPA’s Independent.  This was named one of the best book marketing blogs by Book Baby and recognized by Feedspot in 2018 as one of the top book marketing blogs. Also named by as a "best resource.” He recently hosted a panel on book publicity for Book Expo America.

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