Finding time to read: Important for test prep and for life
Like many parents, teachers and tutors, I am struck today by how infrequently kids seem to be reading for pleasure. Sure, most students stay caught up in English class and read the assigned books, but the vast majority don’t go to bed with a book in their hands or camp out on the couch with a novel on a weekend afternoon.
Kids are busier these days than ever before. Sports, tutoring, after-school community service and jobs all conspire to cut down on the time that kids can just hang out and be kids. They are also more than ever tethered to computers, iPads, smartphones, and other electronic devices, which provide countless distractions and have gotten people hooked on the instant gratification of getting an immediate answer from a Google search. The sense of anticipation and wonder as a good book opens up and as characters develop can be lost on today's kids who don't necessarily have the patience to see what happens if they are not grabbed immediately by the first few chapters of a book. The world of kids today is so filled with videos and flashy animations that many students actually have considerable difficulty creating in their mind pictures and scenes from words on a page and, as a consequence, find books rather bland.
Building good reading habits early is important, since your high schooler won’t be as swayed by outside pressure to read for fun. Here are some steps you can use:
1. Find time, several days each week, to read with your kids. Help them pick out some good books (for middle and high school students, these could be spy novels like those by Clancy or Berenson; mysteries like those by Higgins Clark; or suspense and horror like those by King or Koontz).
2. Take them to the bookstore or go on Amazon together. And if you find a book or author that seems to click, buy more of that series or author!
3. Then, sit your child down and read at the same time as him or her, even if for only 15-20 minutes at a time, and do it every day or every other day. Make this mandatory (as in, “dinner will start after we are done reading” or “you can go out with your friends after we do reading”). If you meet resistance to “proctored reading time,” explain that you are happy not to have supervised time if you get the sense that your son or daughter is actually reading on his or her own – that you see them doing this several times each week and that they are asking for more books.
4. Don’t read the same book as your child and don’t quiz them on what they are reading – remember these are pleasure books. Asking open-ended questions such as “Are you enjoying your book?” or “What do you like about it?” can give you a sense of how much reading is going on. And remember, children learn habits from watching those around them.
5. Don’t pay your kids to read or bribe them with rewards – you shouldn’t be paying them to do something they need to be doing anyway. Also, newspapers and magazines are not substitutes for actual books.
If you want your children to read, get them away from their computers and spend time with them reading yourself!