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Helping our children foster a love of reading

There are so many reasons why I love summer, including the sunshine, free time, vacations, family bonding, and the chance to catch up on all of the things I don't seem to have the time to do during the busy spring and fall.

One of these activities is reading. During the school year, most of the material I spend reading are textbooks, the weekly newspaper or maybe a magazine. When I am sitting at the pool or in my backyard with a great book, immersed in another world, I always wonder why I do not read more often. It doensn't take long to remember that sometimes life just gets in the way.

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As a child, reading was a huge part of my life. I am not sure what sparked this interest, but I can always remember having several books I was reading either around the house or in my backpack. Of course, this was a time before cable TV, cellphones, computers and video games. On long car trips, we did not have a DVD player in the car or an iPod touch to play games on. Without books, I would have been bored out of my mind.

My parents facilitated this love of reading by taking me to the library every week to check out books and by giving me collections of my favorite series for Christmas or my birthday. I am fortunate that my son shares my love of reading. It wasn't always this way.

Like many other kids his age, he too was glued to the television and his Nintendo, and without my intervention might not have gotten the chance to fall in love with literature. When he was little, I would read him books before bedtime each night. It became a ritual — and probably a stall tactic — that we would spend 30 minutes reading together in the evenings. Usually, I would read to him. When he read on his own, he would lose interest easily. At first, I chalked it up to his age. But then I realized that the books he was reading were ones assigned by the school, or books I had enjoyed as a child. I needed to find something he was interested in reading if I had any chance of getting him reading on his own.

It wasn't until — after a lot of trial and error — we found a series of books called "Geronimo Stilton" about a talking mouse who lives in New Mouse City on Mouse Island that my son found something worth reading by himself. In the books, the mouse, Geronimo Stilton, works as a journalist and editor for a fictional newspaper. I would have never thought to choose this type of book for him, but I was lucky the librarian at our local library suggested it. He was immediately hooked! There are more than 60 books in the series, and I could not get the next one fast enough. He would read in the morning before school, on the school bus, in the line at the grocery store, in the car or anywhere else he had the opportunity.

I could not believe the transformation. My 6-year-old had read 60 books in six months. I think the interesting subject matter was a big part of why he became so engrossed in the books, but I also think the fact that they were only about 100 or so pages each and included a lot of colorful illustrations helped get him hooked. Completing the book seemed reasonable and was not overwhelming for him.

After he completed the series, I was so worried he would not want to read anymore, so, again, I met with the local librarian, and she suggested a few more series for him. It took a few different types of books for him to become immersed in a new series. Now, eight years later, he is reading some amazing books that are even sometimes over my head. Reading has given him so much insight into different cultures, religions and historical events, as well as allowed him to become immersed in other worlds and times just as I do when I'm reading.

Of course, this does not mean he does not spend time browsing his computer or watching Netflix, but each night at 8 p.m., all electronics must be off. He has a choice: either read or go to bed. Reading always prevails. Just like when he was little, he uses reading as a stall tactic before he goes to bed. What he doesn't know is that when he asks if he can have a few more minutes to read, I am smiling because that was my plan all along.

Getting your child to become a reader could be a simple as searching for the right type or length of book, setting a good example of being a reader yourself, reading to him or her, or turning of the electronics an hour or so before bed time. Trust me, if given the choice between going to bed early or reading, odds are, reading will prevail.

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Kelly Scible is a Reisterstown resident and can be reached via email at

kellyscible@gmail.com.

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