What can a parent, who wants their child to read and to read good literature, do?
• Research children’s books as you would a car. Teach children to qualify entertainment as they would food.
• Don’t stop reading aloud to your kids. “Many parents stop reading out loud to their child the year (he or she) becomes an independent reader,” explains Barrett. “Big mistake. If your main goal is to create a lifelong reader and get kids to enjoy stories, to be inspired by stories, to be able to think critically and creatively, the best way is to keep reading out loud to them – especially if you’re going to read above the level that the child is reading.” A child reading at third-grade level should be read aloud novels at middle-grade levels. A sixth grader should hear young adult books. Read one or two levels ahead, says Barrett, who rejects the idea that children won’t understand this more complex literature. “That’s another way we dumb down to kids. We expect them to not understand the concepts, the subject matter, the vocabulary, the structure of the story – but they do.”
• Try to keep reading fun and enjoyable, not a task or obligation. The writers interviewed for this article spoke of cherished memories of adults – a parent, teacher or librarian – taking the time to read aloud, to present it as fun, not labor, and as an opportunity to set their minds in motion.
“Since they started using novels in school, what is getting lost is the notion that reading is fun,” says Babbitt. “It’s homework now. And there’s a lot of homework.”
Society’s push to read should not be so stressful, Babbit says. It should introduce children to the joys of the act. Those who have an instinctive love of reading will read. But those who don’t would be better served by not being made to feel that they must read and they must read a lot.
“You’re a child for such short period of time; you’re not going to get through everything, and there’s a lot of good stuff out there,” Babbitt says. “Even if you read all the time, you’re not going to get through them all before you are a teen-ager. But we all keep right on doing it anyway.”
In the meantime, parents should approach the topic of reading with both abandon and caution.
These are excellent beginning recommendations from John E. Mitchell in November 2000.