YOU Can Make Them Love Books!
I challenge you to find a Savvy Auntie whose heart isn’t warmed when she sees her niece or nephew with his or her nose buried in a book. If you are lucky enough to have a niece or nephew with a penchant for reading, I’m jealous! I’ve seen those book-toting tykes with novels that could serve as doorstops and weigh half as much as they do. They are so attached to their latest book that it becomes like an appendage.
My nephews have accessories as constant appendages, too, but they are DSIs, iPods, and other handheld gaming systems. They have achieved impressive high scores that garner respect amongst their peers, and believe me, their video-game vocabulary is quite expansive. Someone could publish a dictionary with video game jargon. But these words will not appear on the SATs, cannot be effectively incorporated into a term paper, or used in business correspondence later in life. Video games won’t help them learn about the world and expand their horizons the way a great book can.
Here are some quick, startling statistics that should be a wake-up call for all of us:
Children who have not developed some basic literacy skills by the time they enter school are three to four times more likely to drop out in later years (National Adult Literacy Survey, (1002) NCES, U.S. Department of Education).
If a child is a poor reader at the end of first grade, there is an almost 90% probability that the child will be a poor reader at the end of fourth grade (The Public Library Association).
Out-of-school reading habits of students have shown that even 15 minutes a day of independent reading can expose students to more than a million words of text in a year (Anderson, Wilson, & Fielding, 1988).
Nearly 40% of fourth graders have not mastered basic reading skills. It’s nearly 60% in California, and almost half of these children live with college-educated parents (Council for Basic Education).
When the state of Arizona projects how many prison beds it will need, it factors in the number of kids who read well in fourth grade.
Okay, so now that I’ve got your attention, what are you going to do about it, Auntie? The most important piece of advice I can offer is to keep reading fun!
Here are some pointers that have worked for my nephews:
Leave it up to the teachers to introduce the classics like The Catcher in the Rye and Don Quixote. Your job is to get nieces and nephews excited about any kind of book. I don’t care if it’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid or Captain Underpants! Tap into their sense of humor, and don’t worry so much about the “literary value” of a book.
Create a special event around acquiring and reading books together. A date to the library or bookstore and lunch at your niece’s favorite restaurant is a fabulous way to spend the afternoon. Cap the day off with some quiet time reading - maybe you can go to the park together and find a peaceful spot - and talking about the new books. See if you can help establish a regular reading time in their schedule - this may mean continuing the tradition of a “bedtime story” by keeping a book on their night table that they can read a chapter of every night, or whatever best fits into their lives.
Remember that any reading material is good for your nieces and nephews, including newspapers and magazines. My nephew loves his subscription to Sports Illustrated Kids that I gave him for his birthday and he reads each edition cover to cover.
Teaching your nieces and nephews to love reading is a gift they will appreciate for the rest of their lives.
Published: May 7, 2012