If you’re at your wit’s end struggling to balance working at home and schooling at home, may I suggest a strategy to help? Just read! In this strange new world, read to soothe your soul and to comfort, nourish, and expand the worlds of your cooped-up children. While you shelter in place, if you read voluminously, you will help your children develop a reading habit that will sustain them for a lifetime of productive learning.
Please don’t think just reading means you are taking the easy way out—that you’re not shouldering the responsibility of being your child’s “first and best teacher.” Indeed, promoting avid reading is the best way to support your child—and that makes you a reading superhero!
The National Council of Teachers of English explains:
The more one reads, the better one reads. The more one reads, the more knowledge of words and language one acquires. The more one reads, the more fluent one becomes as a reader. The more one reads, the easier it becomes to sustain the mental effort necessary to comprehend complex texts. The more one reads, the more one learns about the people and happenings of our world (2019).
This is nothing short of miraculous! Avid readers spend 500% more time reading than peers who aren’t in love with books (Guthrie, 2004)—and all those hours inside books give them a leg up in leading a happy, productive life. They develop a deep conceptual understanding about a wide range of topics, a robust vocabulary, strategic reading and writing ability, critical literacy skills, better math skills, and engagement in the world. They are more likely to become dynamic citizens drawn into full civic participation.
While there is no “right way” to help your child embrace a robust reading life, these three advantages will help:
- Time and Talk
First, you and your child need access to a wide range of texts. While most libraries are closed, they still provide online access to a multitude of e-books, audiobooks, and other materials at no charge. Search for digital access to reading materials, and you’ll be amazed by what pops up; here’s just a small sampling:
- Scholastic Learn at Home provides multiple weeks of meaningful activities designed to reinforce and sustain learning for children hunkered down at home.
- Home Base Virtual Book Fest is an online celebration from Scholastic, featuring live book events and activities, where authors and kids can interact with each other in real time.
- #SaveWithStories, launched by actresses Jennifer Garner and Amy Adams in partnership with Save the Children and Scholastic, features celebrities reading aloud.
- The doors are closed, but many of the riches of the Library of Congress, including classics such as The Wizard of Oz and The Secret Garden, are available digitally. And don’t miss the fun activities with Dav Pilkey, author of Dog Man and Captain Underpants. You can find it all here: Library of Congress: Engage.
- Families can build their home libraries. Schools can now host Virtual Book Fairs so caregivers can order exclusive titles, best-sellers, collections, and more for their kids, and have the books shipped to any location of their choice. Teachers can also distribute Scholastic Book Clubs flyers digitally so students can select books that can be delivered to educators’ homes for distribution during this extraordinary period, and a Pop-Up Shop on Scholastic.com helps families arrange to have Book Clubs titles shipped to their homes while helping their teachers earn bonus points.
- Your Public Library, together with the Libby app, enables you to borrow e-books, magazines, graphic novels, and other digital materials. Download Libby to access the catalog. No library card? No problem. Many public libraries are inviting residents to apply for free cards online.
- The Yale Child Study Center-Scholastic Collaborative for Child & Family Resilience teamed up with child development expert Denise Daniels, RN, MS, to create a free, downloadable social-emotional workbook for families to share with children ages 4–10, who are learning how to cope during the coronavirus pandemic.
No surprise, kids, like adults, prefer to choose their own reading material. Indeed, the research supporting self-selection is conclusive. Findings from the Scholastic Kids & Family Reading Report™ revealed that across demographics, the majority of kids (89%) agree their favorite books are the ones that they have picked out themselves.
If you feel the need to help your child’s book selection, you might consider the Yours, Mine, and Ours strategy. Your child chooses one book, you choose one for them, and the two of you choose a third book to read together. This is a simple, yet effective, way to give children the freedom they need to get to know themselves as readers, while providing the support they need to find books they will love.
TIME AND TALK
We value what we make time for. If you want your child to become an avid reader, you must provide uninterrupted blocks of time to read. And make time to talk about books—those you are reading, the ones your child is reading, and those you are reading together. And by the way, contrary to popular belief, kids never outgrow the magic of a read-aloud—even teens will lean in for an engaging story. If your family doesn’t reside under one roof, consider bringing everyone together online for a bedtime read-aloud.
Talk, talk, talk about every book choice and reading decision that’s made in your household: What are you reading and why? How’s it going? Are you hooked? Why or why not? Engage your child in a grand conversation about each book—not unlike the lively conversations you have with your friends after you’ve all read a bestselling thriller or viewed a riveting film. Even a five-minute book chat with your child will make clear what they understood and didn’t. With that information, you can provide support as needed. And there’s research, too, that supports text talk: talking about books improves “reading comprehension, higher level thinking skills, and increased literacy motivation” (Gambrell, 2004).
Finally, reading comforts and reassures, provides hope and truth, and allows access to all the wisdom of the world. While wide reading inevitably reveals innumerable challenges—large and small, real and imagined—that we have faced across time and place, it also captures our miraculous solutions and hard-earned victories.
Books are our best defense against fear and anxiety. Through reading, our children learn that the human spirit is strong and resilient, and the future is still bright with possibility.
Gambrell, L. (2004). Shifts in the conversation: Teacher-led, peer-led, and computer-mediated discussions. The Reading Teacher, 58(2), 212–215.
Guthrie, J. (2004). Teaching for literacy engagement. The Journal of Literacy Research. Vol. 36.1. March.
National Council Teachers of English. (2019). Position Statement on Independent Reading. Urbana IL. NCTE.