The study found that 54% of children ages under age 5 are read aloud to at home five to seven days a week, as compared to only 34% of kids ages 6 to 8 and 17% of kids ages 9 to 11. Nearly one in four parents stopped reading to their child entirely by the time she was 9. However, 86% of 6- to 8-year-olds and 84% of 9- to 11-year-olds (and even 80% of 12- to 14-year-olds) said they either liked or loved being read to.
I’ve got nothing against Ivy and Bean, but the truth is that sometimes the books at your child’s reading level just aren’t as interesting as ones that are a bit too hard for her to tackle on her own.
For the last few years, I have been reading to my daughter, now 10, while she eats breakfast. One reason I started this routine was just to distract her so she’d sit still and eat, but it has really helped her get her more excited about books. And I’ve been able to introduce her to titles she might not have chosen on her own. “Sometimes it’s easier and more fun to listen to a book than to read it yourself,” she told me today.
Ten minutes at a time, we read all three of The Land of Stories books, by Chris Colfer, for example, and she’s recommended them to all her friends. The cover of E.B. White’s The Trumpet of the Swan (one of my childhood favorites) looked boring to her, but I insisted we give it a try, and she loved it. Although she’d read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by herself, she got scared when she started reading Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. It was less scary when I read it to her, and I’m hoping that she’ll go back to finish the rest of the series on her own. Since she had enjoyed reading Sharon Draper’s Out of My Mind on her own, we’re now reading Stella by Starlight, the author’s newest book about a North Carolina girl’s encounter with the Ku Klux Klan in the 1930s. It’s already sparked a lot of discussion.
Part of me wonders whether I’m robbing her of the opportunity to read these great books on her own, but maybe she’ll go back and read them again someday. Right now, I feel lucky that I can share the experience of reading them with her.
Diane Debrovner is the deputy editor of Parents and the mother of two daughters.
Like many, many other fans I was incredibly sad to finish reading the Harry Potter series in 2007. For several years I had cheered for Harry playing against Slytherin, wished that I had my own pet owl, and teared up when Ron and Hermione finally acknowledged their crushes on each other.
Sure, there were still more movies that had yet to come out, but something about having the chance to snuggle up on my couch with a blanket and my new Harry Potter book was a feeling I knew I would miss.
Fortunately, that feeling never exactly came true. Myself and other Harry Potter fans got a special “Halloween treat” today—even more insight into the wizarding world today with the release of J.K. Rowling’s back-story on the malicious and bow-bedecked character, Dolores Umbridge, among a few other new tales.
And for someone like me who’s read every book at least five times (and had an HP-themed birthday party, beach towel, and board game set), it’s nice that a set of characters I’ve known for so long can still come back with new life, many years later.
In fact, it’s something that I’ve had the chance to grow up with. The seventh and final book came out when I was in high school, I dressed up and traveled with new college friends to see the first part of the Deathly Hallows movie in theaters at midnight, and when I studied abroad in London I spent plenty of time posing for pictures in front of the “real” Platform 9 3/4. And still, I’m looking forward to more HP surprises in store like the Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them movie trilogy that was announced last year.
And while reading the new tales on my desktop screen isn’t quite the same as curling up on my parent’s sofa, it’s a comforting feeling to know that the books we read as kids have the ability to leave such a mark on us down the road. As a ten-year-old I identified with Hermione so much—she owned a cat (me too!), she loved school (same here!) and she had teeth that were in dire need of braces (just like me!). And I still remember those thoughts I had so long ago every time I get to see or read a new Harry Potter installation. It’s those tiny details about a book that can make reading so, well, magical.
Of course, the great thing about books is that you can always go back and crack open your favorite ones again (and share them with your kids too!). Luckily, I can say I’ve read several books that have left an impression on me years later. Here are a few:
I was in fifth grade when J.K. Rowling released Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in the U.S. I didn’t read it until the seventh grade, but I tore through the first few books and became one of those kids who couldn’t wait until the next edition came out. Through seven novels, Harry Potter taught my generation a lot—and does so for millions of kid readers all over the world to this day. Researchers recently revealed that Harry Potter taught us much more than the rules of Quidditch.
As reported in The New York Times, the Journal of Applied Psychology recently published a study revealing that story-reading can affect how kids feel about currently stigmatized groups in our society, from immigrants to homosexuals. Specifically, kids who “read stories about characters from a culture similar to their own cooperating with characters from an unfamiliar culture, they later display fewer stereotypes, and more positive attitudes, about the people belonging to the dissimilar group.”
I remember when Draco Malfoy called Hermione Granger a Mudblood for the first time. It made my blood boil. I felt triumphant when Harry stood up for his friend. And that’s exactly the point. I had sympathy for Hermione. I felt nasty treatment towards her as an outsider was outrageous. This study shows much the same. Kids who read and discussed passages like these (about the in-group , like Harry, interacting positively with the out-group, like Hermione) held more positive views about the out-group of their own culture, like immigrants. On the other hand, kids who read and discussed Harry Potter passages that didn’t address prejudice, showed no change in their attitudes towards ostracized groups. As Harry entertained me, he also taught me.
He teaches the power of our own choices when he chooses Gryffindor under the Sorting Hat. He teaches what it is to fight for a greater cause. He teaches us to treat each other kindly, Muggle or Mudblood or Pure Blood.
This is exciting news not only for readers of Harry Potter, but any book that captures similar situations. Kids can learn to be more compassionate, accepting, and tolerant through reading. If that’s not a reason raise a reader, I don’t know what is.
In addition to the announcement, the AAP has also partnered with four organizations, the Clinton Foundation, Too Small to Fail, Scholastic, and Reach Out and Read, to implement the new policy. The AAP and Too Small to Fail are creating a toolkit to include guidelines for parents on the importance of reading from infancy, which will be distributed to 62,000 pediatricians in the AAP network. Scholastic is also donating 50,000 children’s books that Reach Out and Read will distribute to 20,000 medical providers.
The AAP recommends restricting TV time for kids under 2 in favor of interactive play, and reading books can certainly be a part of that. Speaking to the Huffington Post, Pamela High, M.D., the lead author on the AAP early literacy policy, recommends that parents focus on the 5 Rs of early education: read together, rhyme and play with words, set consistent routines, reward with praise, and develop a strong relationship.
Editor’s Note: This post was written by LeVar Burton, co-founder of the award-winning Reading Rainbow digital library, host of the original PBS series, and lifelong children’s literacy advocate. Burton is also known for his distinguished TV roles as the young Kunta Kinte on Roots and Geordi La Forge on Star Trek: The Next Generation. Follow LeVar (@levarburton) and Reading Rainbow (@ReadingRainbow) on Twitter.
People always ask me, “What is your favorite book?” I always give the same answer: “The book that I am reading right now!” From the moment I first cracked the code, it has always been the power of the word made whole in my imagination that has kept me coming back for more.
My first real love in reading was comics. I come from a military family, and for a young American growing up on an Army base in Germany, comics were treasured items from back home. Comics were not only a connective thread to American culture; they were the currency that dominated our social interactions. Every Saturday morning, I would take the box of comics I had finished and was willing to part with, and join the sea of kids on base, trading comics with one another. It was always a thrill getting something brand-new to read, even if the book was already thoroughly used! Science fiction became my genre of choice as a teenager and it still is to this day. Sci-fi invites us to contemplate what I believe are two of the most powerful words in language: what if. It also encouraged me, as a young man faced with the realities of racism, prejudice, and tremendous social upheaval, to imagine a future as I hoped it would become. My reading diet now runs the gamut from biographies to history to mysteries to the occasional Marvel or DC comic title of my youth. It all depends on my mood. It really is the experience of reading that brings me pleasure.
But our kids are not us—and as parents we all know this all too well. The subjects that interest us may not interest them. When our kids are young, the best way I know to encourage them to read is to allow them to pick the subject, the format, and the way in which they experience the written word. Most kids love it when their parents read to them, so I encourage you to read to your children as much as possible. Snuggling up and reading together not only provides comfort and security, but it also emphasizes the value we place on reading. The more your kids see you with a book, the more a message is delivered that reading is an essential part of the human experience. As they become old enough to read themselves, help them find material that is appropriate for their age and reading level, but don’t worry about the subject. Of course we would like them to pick the best literature out there, but that will come with time. For now, trust me, a former comic book addict: If they enjoy reading, they will expand their literary horizons in their own time. If they’re forced to read what doesn’t interest them, you run the risk of extinguishing the spark of excitement for reading that’s so important to their becoming life-long learners and fulfilling their potential.
When you and your child are looking for books to read, sometimes the classics are the best choice of all. There is a reason they are classics—they’ve already stood the test of time. They tend to have familiar themes and they deliver quality life lessons. One of my favorite examples is the story “The Tortoise and the Hare.” It’s believed that Aesop wrote this fable more than 2,500 years ago, and yet it’s hard to find any child today who doesn’t know the story of the hare’s unlikely victory or the timeless lessons of hard work, steadfastness, and the moral that “Slow and steady wins the race.”
So tonight, perhaps you and your child can walk over to the bookshelf, close your eyes, and choose at random what I hope will be, at least in the moment, your favorite book.