Until now I haven’t felt inspired to write an article on this topic because I don’t think I’m qualified. You see, I’m not a college graduate. I’m not a teacher. I’m not a school official. I’m just a 57 year-old woman that has raised four children and survived the process by reading.
I’m an avid reader because I was born to parents who were avid readers. And I mean seriously avid readers. They didn’t just read the headlines in the newspaper or favorite articles in a magazine. They read just about anything in print that came their way. They were, perhaps, what some people might call “habitual readers.” They belonged to book clubs, and they subscribed to magazines. They even read the religious publications that were left on the porch by religous troupes of a different faith.
And when it came to their down time, my parents were very selfish. They just needed a few quiet minutes for their own pleasure every day and their pleasure was the printed word. So, after lunch or dinner, my parents would always grab a cup of coffee, move into the living room and claim their favorite chairs and settle down for some reading time.
My parents weren’t trying to raise perfect children. They wanted us to be smart, accomplished and capable. But, during their personal reading time, their focus was on their own pleasure and their own fullfillment. As a result, during their daily reading time, we children had three options: 1). Go outside and play or work, quietly, 2). Go to our rooms to play or work quietly, 3). Or read quietly.
Of course we children wanted to watch television. Buy, the television could not be on during their reading time.
I was both sickly and lazy during my childhood. I coulldn’t go outside to play, so I had plenty of time to sit there in the reading room and observe my parents as they read. It was obvious that they genuinely enjoyed reading. And in an effort to both entertain myself and impress my parents, I started reading their books and magazines. Soon, I was in the habit of reading.
When I became a mother, I turned to the written word for entertainment and enlightment. But, I will be honest with you, I never set out to make my children strong readers. I didn’t read to them in the womb. I didn’t enroll them in reading camps. Yes, I occasionally read them a story, but not on a regular basis. I just did the normal things: Taught them their ABCs, corrected their grammar, helped them with their spelling and showed them how to use a dictionary and enclyclopedia.
I allowed them to watch television and if they asked about the factual basis of a show, I simply referred them to the encyclopedias. Likewise, if they wanted to know how to spell a new word, I referred them to the dictionary. And usually, I did all of this while my own nose was buried in a book.
Despite my lack of specific effort, my children all become strong readers. Three of the four are habitual readers, and the fourth is a very good writer. None of my children are rocket scientists, but they can debate quite well because they always manage to retrieve some obscure scrap of information absorbed during an episode of habitual reading.
So, I don’t know if I am qualified to give advice. But, my suggestion to parents concerned about their children’s interest in reading is to first set at an example.
If reading apppears to be interesting, relaxing, entertaining, or informative, children will read.
So, just read. Read because it is relaxiing and entertaining and educational and informative.
Your children will follow suit.