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Monday, March 16th, 2015
Once your child can read by herself—especially if she has to read independently for 15 or 30 minutes each night for homework—you might figure she doesn’t really need you to read aloud to her anymore. Maybe it’s harder to find the time, or she seems too old for bedtime stories. However, kids ages 6 to 11 wish their parents read to them more often, according to a new study from Scholastic.
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.
Image via Shutterstock
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Friday, October 31st, 2014
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.
It’s one of many new stories that have been released on Rowling’s site, Pottermore, since July (though you can read the Umbridge profile and a few other stories on Today.com, too).
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:
What were the books you loved to read growing up? Share your favorites in the comments!
Photo of Platform 9 3/4 courtesy of Shutterstock.
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Friday, August 15th, 2014
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.
Read with your kids or find other fun activities using Parents’ activity finder.
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Tuesday, July 1st, 2014
“School’s out for summer.” I used to play that Alice Cooper song for my son on the last day of classes (the Muppets version) as a celebration of his 10-week break from homework (and pencils, books, and teacher’s dirty looks). But as it turns out, I probably shouldn’t have been hailing his educational break. The National Summer Learning Association says that students lose about two months worth of skills in mathematics during the lazy days of summer. And as we reported, kids of all ages score lower on the same standardized reading, spelling, and math tests in September than they do at the end of the previous year in school.
The reason for this “summer slide,” a.k.a. “brain drain” or “summer slump,” is obvious: Kids—and, to an extent, parents—tend to view July and August as a break from learning, a time to enjoy the beach and the pool and recharge. R&R is all fine and good. The real problem is that many children wile away the days watching TV, playing video games, or surfing the Web. Kids spend three hours in front of a screen for every hour they crack a book during the summer—and more time than they spend outdoors. According to a new survey from the nonprofit kid’s literacy group Reading is Fundamental, only 17 percent of parents say reading is a top summer priority for their kids, and 60 percent don’t worry about their child losing reading skills during this time.
Actually, you really shouldn’t worry, because it’s easy to do something about it. A nonprofit organization called TRUCE (Teachers Resisting Unhealthy Children’s Entertainment) offers lots of screen-free ideas to inspire your family to play and learn together. Try incorporating some of these fun, mind-building activities into your kids’ break. Also consider downloading these educational apps, which at least turn screen time into learning time. And check out ideas here and here, along with a video chat with Soleil Moon Frye (the former star of “Blossom”) about how to stop summer slide.
I don’t pretend to have any magical suggestions for preventing this phenomenon. I worry about my kids and their tendency to gravitate toward watching sports events and Disney shows. To minimize this, we encourage reading and writing for pleasure, try to get them out of the house as much as possible, and look for teachable moments in leisure-time settings, such as digging for hermit crabs at the beach and calculating batting averages and ERAs at baseball games. Granted, these are no substitute for cracking the books, but at least they should leave our children be better prepared when their teachers see them in September.
Two little girls with magnifying glass outdoors in the daytime via ShutterStock
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Tuesday, June 24th, 2014
For the first time, the AAP has made an official stand on early literacy, releasing a new policy today that advocates reading aloud to children every day, beginning from birth. The new policy urges pediatricians and policy makers to ensure that books are available to all families, particularly those with low income.
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.
Being exposed to books at a young age will also foster early education, help kids prepare for school later in life, and possibly reduce the educational gap between low- and high-income families. There are also several amazing benefits of reading out loud to babies — it strengthens bonding, increases language skills, improves vocabulary, boosts brain activity, and fine-tunes social and emotional recognition — all important things for baby’s development. So grab some board books and start shaping a little bookworm today!
Image: Mother and child reading a book via Shutterstock
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Babies, Child Development, Education, News, Parenting, The Parents Perspective