by Kathy Higgs-Coulthard
You’re a lifelong reader. You understand the inherent joy in creeping around corners with Harriet M. Welsh, hiding behind potted ferns to jot notes on Ole Golly and Mr. Waldenstein; the horror in sitting next to Fern at the Arable kitchen table and seeing Papa walk toward the barn with his ax; the devastation in learning along with Travis and Arliss that a beloved lab has hydrophobia and must be put down.
You’re a lifelong reader and you want your kids to be one too. You model your passion for great books by reading in front of your kids, reading with your kids, and sneaking off for a few minutes of quiet reading. When a polar vortex is on the horizon, you head not to the grocery store to stock up on staples like milk and bread, but to the library to grab books. When packing for long car rides, trips to the beach or a favorite camp ground, books are as important as a full tank of gas. You realize that no child is ever too young to be read to and that the comfort of a great story transcends teenage drama to connect families on a cozy couch. You do all the right things to instill a love of reading in your children.
But a study by the University of Michigan shows that the amount of time our children spend reading drops nearly 20% between the ages of 5 and 9. That statistic worries me and since the same study also found that reading increased school achievement (even more so than studying!), it should worry you too.
So, if we are doing our best to create lifelong readers, what is happening to these young readers when they turn 5 that reduces the time they spend reading? One obvious answer is school. The structure of a typical school day leaves little time for free choice reading. The other thing that happens right about that age is that kids are spending more time engaged in organized activities, like sports, Scouts, and fine arts. All of those are wonderful things! Keeping our kids healthy—intellectually and physically is important. But it is also important to remember that kids need time to sit still and read. Factor that in when your calendar starts to fill up. One family I know keeps a stack of books in the car to read while they wait at the community bus stop. Another family schedules after dinner reading time each night before they’re off to soccer practice. An especially busy mother of three devotes Sunday afternoons to a marathon reading spree.
You’ve made an important decision to build reading into your child’s life. Don’t let busy-family syndrome ruin that foundation. Whether they’re turning five or fifteen, a love for reading is the best gift you can give them.
The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew
by Margaret Sidney
What books do you credit with making you a lifelong reader?