We live in an amazing age of technology. Never before have we had so much information available at our fingertips (literally). We have the convenience of cell phones, laptops, video phones, instant messaging, texting, iPhones, email and more. If you ever have a question about anything you can Google it, and if you want to keep in touch just Twitter or get on Facebook.
All of these things are wonderful and connect people like never before. They give us access to more information in two seconds than a person in the 16th Century was exposed to in their entire life.
With all the influx of technology, I sometimes wonder if we’re losing some of the essentials. A 13-year-old girl won $25,000 from a texting competition (she averages over 8,000 texts per month to friends and family), but 37% of fourth graders are below a ‘basic’ reading level.
Speaking of fourth graders, many states, like California, use fourth grade literacy rates to estimate how many prison cells they need to build for future inmates. There is a direct link between illiteracy and crime. The average American reads less than one book per year, and 55% of Americans do not read a non-fiction book after high school.
- On average, Americans ages 15 to 24 spend almost two hours a day watching TV, and only seven minutes of their daily leisure time on reading.
- American 15-year-olds ranked fifteenth in average reading scores for 31 industrialized nations, behind Poland, Korea, France, and Canada, among others.
- Money spent on books, adjusted for inflation, dropped 14 percent from 1985 to 2005 and has fallen dramatically since the mid-1990s.
Is it any wonder that literacy is on the decline, with Americans spending more on fast food than books and education combined. Over 1.9 Billion dollars is spent on Halloween candy each year, and over $2 billion on chewing gum.
Well, the economy is not good right now, we can’t afford to buy books. Consider for a moment how much you spend on ‘necessary’ expenses like cell phones, internet, cable, Direct TV, movies, video games and more. Americans easily spend hundreds per month on these expenses. While there is nothing inherently wrong with this, ask yourself, to you have a budgeted amount for books?
Brian Tracy said that you can tell a person’s values by their actions. If you believe reading is important, and you want your children to reap the full benefits of life-long learning, are your actions (and more specifically your spending) conveying that message to your children? If you spend your money every month so that there’s nothing left over for books, then your actions say that books really aren’t that important to you.
But they are important, crucially important. Here’s why:
Fourth-graders who reported daily reading for fun scored higher on the NAEP reading test than peers who reported less reading for fun (NCES, 2001b).
Children who score at the 90th percentile on a reading test spent five times as many minutes per day reading books as children at the 50th percentile (Anderson, Wilson & Fielding, 1988).
- Children and adults who read become more intelligent, influential, earn a larger income and achieve higher levels of success
So what determines whether you raise a reader or a texter?
Families play an important role in their children’s reading success.
Studies of individual families show that what they do to support literacy in the home is more important to student success than family income or education (Ballen & Moles, 1994).
When adults interact with young children — talking, singing and playing rhyming games — they stimulate language and vocabulary development and build important foundations for learning to read (Hart & Risley, 1995).
Reading to preschoolers is the most important thing families can do to prepare them for reading (Adams, 1990).
Reading aloud to infants stimulates their brains to create new learning pathways and strengthen existing ones (Shore, 1997).
Simply put, give books and reading and important place in your life. Let your actions reflect that it is consequential. Here are some action ideas to get you started:
- Decide to make a love of reading your most important educational goal for your children. Children who love to read will excel at whatever they do.
- Show your children you value reading by letting them see you do it.
- Have a wide variety of books on hand, as well as newspapers, comics, magazines, etc. Build a home library for you and your children.
- Find books that your children like- an interest in the subject is the first step to pleasure in reading.
- Spend more on books than you do on Disney movies
- Make a love of reading be your most important education goal for your children. Children who love to read will excel in everything they do
- Show your children that you value reading, don’t just tell them. Let them see you reading
- Make reading a daily activity
- Take outings to the bookstore
- Give books as gifts
- Always have time to read with them or help them with their reading
- Have a wide variety of books on hand, as well as newspapers, magazines and comics.
- Find books that your children are interested in
- Surprise your children with books about their favorite animal, hobby or passion
- Join the Book of the Month Club and let them receive a new book every month
- Create their own little ‘library’ in their room on their own bookshelf. Give them a sense of ownership
- Take your children o the library often while they are young and eager to go
- On special occasions, take your children to the bookstore and let them pick their favorite book
- Buy lots of cheap books at garage sales and flea markets
- Spend more time (and money) on books than on Disney movies
- Make read aloud time fun for your child
- Read whatever books your child wants to read
- Narrate the story with voices and action, get into it and have fun!
- Wrap up quickly when your child loses interest
- Let your child participate as much as possible- let her finish the sentence, read the pictures, take turns reading, etc.
- Plan play activities that involve books- picnics, crafts, science projects, kits.
- Act out favorite stories and characters from books
- Let them ‘read’ stories to their dolls or younger siblings
- Play bookstore or library
- Do projects, recipes, crafts and activities from books
- Play reading games- cross of shopping lists, put name tags around the house, play school
- Have a reading time after meals
- Be aware of how your child learns best- visual, auditory, or hands on
- Do a reading night with popcorn and blankets, instead of movie night
- Don’t do any activities that your child doesn’t enjoy. Learning should be fun!
- Don’t buy books that your child isn’t interested in and make them read them
- After your child learns to read continue to read books to them above their reading level
Elementary School to Teenagers
- Encourage reading a book series
- Continue to encourage and participate in library use
- Don’t schedule so many activities that your children don’t have time to read
- Continue to spend money on books as well as all their other activities
- Try reading plays aloud (and acting them out)
- Have a quiet, comfortable reading area in your home. Make it the most comfortable room in the house
- Fathers, spend time reading with your kids
- Keep books and magazines in the car
- Don’t make your kids turn the lights out at night, let them stay up and read!
- Only own one television, and never put it in your children’s room
- Cancel your cable subscription and buy books instead
- Don’t force them to read something they don’t like
- Send teenagers to the bookstore with money to buy any book they like
- Allow them to choose their own books from the Book of the Month Club
- Read a book together at the same time and discuss it
- Encourage them to write and share what they read about. Do ‘book reports’
- Keep perspective. Reading should be the number one educational goal, but not the only goal
- “It is impossible to sit down to write if you have not stood up to live”- Emerson
Earn FREE books with the Book of the Month Club
An excellent way to promote a love of books with your children. Imagine their faces when the kid a package at their door with books just for them. They won’t be able to wait to read them. You’ll send a message to your children that reading is important and special.
Make a list of all the books you would like to receive over the next year (as few or as many as you want per month). Shipping and handling is only $3.00 per month, until you spend $63, then it’s only 8% of the purchase price. The books will come by UPS to your door. We will charge your credit card only once per month. You may cancel at any time. (To see the books, click here)
To order email firstname.lastname@example.org
Please include your name, address, phone number and what book(s) you would like for each month of the year. I will then contact you by phone regarding payment.
Order before October 31 and receive a free Christmas Treasury
If you are like most parents, you want the best for your child. You want them to grow into fully functioning, happy, fulfilled and successful adults. So how can you ensure that you’re doing those things today that can help to bring about the desired results? How can you even know what is is that needs to be done to cultivate success?
Children are sponges. Watch any child in the way that they play, alone or with others, and you’re likely to recognize a few of your own habits and mannerisms. They are they master observers, and they reflect back exactly what they see.
So in a blinding flash of the obvious, if you want your children to be happy, fulfilled, successful and fully functioning, then that is the type of behavior you need to model. That is the type of person you need to be.
Each year, children spend 900 hours in the classroom, and 7,800 hours outside of the classroom. Especially during the early years, much of that time is spent with parents. Which teacher is likely to have the greatest influence? The one in the classroom or the one at home?
Then the question remains? How can I be the most positive role model possible? How can I ensure that I am a success (Earl Nightengale defines Success as the progressive realization of a worthy ideal), and demonstrate successful living for my children?
There are three simple steps to ensuring the success and happiness of your children (and yourself):
First, become a voracious reader. One common denominator among successful people is that they read more than average people do. People who are committed to reading and self-development become the best at what they do, including parenting.
Brian Tracy, best selling author and motivational speaker, says,
” Becoming an excellent reader is mandatory. It is no longer something you can choose to do or not do. It is absolutely essential and indispensable for your success.
A great many people do not read very much. Fifty-eight percent of adult Americans never read a nonfiction book from cover to cover after they finish school. The average American reads less than one book per year. In fact, according to a Gallup study of the most successful men and women in America, reading one nonfiction book per month will put you into the top 1 percent of living Americans.
People don’t read because they’ve not been ingrained with the absolute importance of it. Lifelong learning and reading are the bare minimum for success in today’s world.
Many people also have the false idea that learning is something that took place in school, and stops after high school and college, unless you enroll in more courses.
Learning should be a daily habit, and not something that is only a part of ‘school.’ It is your responsibility to take charge of your own education.
Second, build a personal library. Research shows that having access to printed materials (books, magazines and newspapers) increase the opportunities for and likelihood of reading more often. The more you read, the better you’ll become at it, the more you’ll enjoy it and the more you will do it.
Jim Trelease, in his book The Read-Aloud Handbook says,
Contrary to the doctrine that blames teachers for reading scores, research shows the seeds of reading and school success are sown in the home, long before the child ever arrives at school.
Research was conducted in which:
The numbers reinforce the adage that “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” Therefore you change the tree if you want different apples.
In essence, children who were successful at reading and had a high interest in doing it, 75-98% of them came from homes that owned a high number of books, were taken to the library often, and were read to on a daily basis.
This brings us to the third step for success; read aloud with your children everyday.
Leonard Pitts, Jr. tells the story of his mother. As he describes her, “She was not a learned woman, never finished high school. But then, it’s hard to be learned when you grow up black in Depression-era Mississippi. Still, not being learned is not the same as not being smart.”
“My first reader was a welfare mother with a heart condition. She lived in a housing project near downtown Los Angeles.
“This is circa 1962 or ’63 and technically, she wasn’t my reader back then but my listener. I would follow her around as she ironed clothes or prepared a meal, reading aloud from my latest epic, which, like all my epics, was about a boy who was secretly a superhero, with super strength and the ability to fly.
“Surely there came a point when the poor woman secretly regretted having taught the bespectacled child his ABCs, but she never let on. Just nodded and exclaimed in all the right places and when the story was done, sent me off to clean up my room or wash my hands for dinner.”
“Mrs. Pitts couldn’t afford to spend her son’s 7,800 hours by driving him around to tutoring classes. Instead, she tutored him herself by listening, enthusing, and reading. She couldn’t afford high-priced “eye-contact” tutors but she skimped to buy him a toy typewriter when he was eight, and a used one when he was 14. Loose change? Just enough so her son could buy the latest “Spider-Man” and “Fantastic Four” comic books.
What Mrs. Pitts was doing is one of the great trade secrets in American education.”
Our concern as parents should is not so much with teaching children how to read; it’s about teaching children to want to read. There is a big difference. “What we teach children to love and desire will always outweigh what we make them learn.” Our purpose is to create lifetime readers- children who continue to read and educate themselves into their adult lives
The three most important factors in fostering lifetime learning and a love of reading is by 1) Modeling reading and learning in the home, 2) Providing sufficient access to printed materials through a home library and, 3) Reading with your child(ren) everyday.
These three steps have been proven to develop postive, pleasurable associations with reading and books, increasing the likelihood that self-directed learning will continue into adulthood.
These results cannot be produced in the classroom.
Research shows that the most criticial aspect to whether a child reads or not, and continues the habit into adulthood, is how the feel about reading. If they have negative associations with it, they will avoid it, and likely stop doing it once it is not ‘required.’
On the other hand, if they associate reading with being enjoyable and fun, they will be more likely to do it on their own and continue the habit throughout their life. Parents play a major role in fostering a child’s feelings toward reading. They can create positive associations by providing the right opportunities for reading and by generating fond memories and feelings of reading together as a family or as parent and child.
However, forcing a child to read can have the opposite effect. Reading should be a choice. It can be encourage though with the following ideas.
1. Provide a family reading time. This can be spent reading aloud, or individually. It could be after dinner, or any other meal, but it should be reserved for nothing else but reading. Even if a child is not interested, with consitence, they will most likely grow accustomed to the practice and begin to enjoy it.
2. Subscribe to magazines that are of interest to the child. Allow the child to pursue their own interests is one way to encourage reading. Don’t try and force them to read what you think they should read, but allow them to make their own choices based on what interests them. They’ll enjoy the reading much more, ensuring that they’ll want to continue the habit.
3. Provide a book allowance that allows them to buy one new book a week or month.
4. Create a place in the child’s room that is comfortable for reading, and where they can keep their own books.
5. Model reading by letting your children see you reading books everyday, on your own time.
6. Schedule regular family visits to the library. It’s helpful for children to learn the abundance of information that is available on any topic that might interest them.
7. Give books as gifts or rewards instead of implying that their too ‘boring’ to receive as a present.
8. Order a book in the mail every month. The anticipation of receiving something addressed to them, and the excitement for wanting to read it as soon as it arrives, helps to develop those positive associations with books.
9. Take family hikes, picnics or other outings and bring along books that you can read while your out.
10. Help your children learn where to find books and information on the topics that interest them. Let them know that they can find a book on (nearly) any topic. Reading what interests them is how the love of reading is ingrained.
11. Attend book sales and fairs and let them choose their own books.
12. Display books in prominent places in the home. Let your children know books are important (how about having a book shelf replace your T.V. entertainment center?)
13. Allow your child to put his or her name in their book. A sense of ownership is important. You might even have labels created that they can place in the book.
14. Allow special privileges for reading, like being able to stay up later with a flashlight if they are reading a book.
15. Have ‘book nights’ instead of movie nights. Make popcorn, dim the lights, and everyone cuddle up with a book and a blanket.
Do you have any great ideas that you use to encourage reading? We’d love to hear from you. Please leave a comment
A lobster, when left high and dry among the rocks, has not instinct nor energy enough to work his way back to the sea, but waits for the sea to come to him. If it does not come, he remains where he is and dies, although the slightest effort would enable him to reach the waves, which are perhaps a few hundred yards from him.
The world is full of human lobsters: Stranded on the rocks of indecision and procrastination, who, instead of putting forth their own energies, are waiting for some grand billow of good fortune to set them afloat.
-Orison Swett Marden
Parenting is arguably the most difficult job in the world. It taxes your mental, emotional and physical energies beyond previous boundaries. Yet, in spite of all the hardships, we adore our children and want the best for them.
We want the best, but sometimes wanting and giving are two different things. We want our children to do well in school. We want to be involved in their education. We want them to develop a love of learning and develop into successful, influential, educated human beings.
We want all those things, but too often we feel like the lobster, high and dry on the emotional rocks of ‘life’, weary and beaten, lacking the drive and the energy to drag ourselves to the sea of idealism. So we remain where we are, waiting and hoping that the sea of opportunity will come to us, and carry our children high upon the grand billows of good fortune and set them afloat to success.
It’s time to stop being a lobster. I don’t need to tell you that if you don’t take responsibility for your children’s education, no one else will. You send your children to school to get educated, but that doesn’t exonerate you from the outcome. The only way to ensure your child’s success is by taking an active role in their learning.
So how can you do it? It’s simple.
- Begin by getting off the rocks of indecision and procrastination and put forth your own energies. Do something, TODAY. And then make a habit of doing something everyday. Buy a book, read with a child, start reading your own book and set the example.
- Model lifelong learning. Let your children see you learning something everyday, even if you’re not enrolled in ‘school’ or a course. You’re responsible for your education, in or out of school, so let your children see that.
- Provide easy access to reading materials. If you don’t have a home library, start building one- for you and your children. You’re less likely to read if you don’t have anything to read.
- Encourage reading everyday. Provide special times, make it a reward and sometimes have treats for reading time. We make movie nights fun with blankets, popcorn and goodies, we should do similar things for reading time.
- Read with your children everyday. Let them read to you, or you read to them. It only needs to be a few minutes if that’s all you have, but it lets your children know that reading is important, and something that is done everyday.
It’s difficult in today’s culture to remember the importance of reading. Reading is like exercise for the brain. It accomplishes growth that cannot be had in any other way. It expands realities, inspires change and develops maturity and wisdom. Reading is critical to success in life, relationships, health, finances and every other area of existence.
Be the change you would see in the world! Stop being a lobster and waiting or success to come to you. Start today to guide yourself and your children on the upward path toward a love of reading and lifelong learning.