How to Get Kids to Read More

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So how do books stack up to screens in the battle over children’s free time? It’s a close call, according to Scholastic’s latest Kids & Family Reading Report, but there’s definitely hope for the written word.

First, the bad news: The number of kids ages six to 17 who frequently read books for fun is lower than it was four years ago, at 31 percent versus 37 percent — and it’s even worse for kids ages 15 to 17, only 14 percent of which are frequent readers.

But there’s good news, too — more than half of kids ages 6 to 17 are currently reading a book for fun, while a large percentage of both parents and kids agreeing that’s a very important thing to do. Then there’s this sweet little nugget: Children adore being read to, whether they’re five or nine, and they yearn for it as they get older, as a parent’s tendency to do so drops sharply by the time kids are eight. 

“We really want to tell parents that reading a loud to their children is not only enjoyable, but inherently important,” Maggie McGuire, vice president of Scholastic Parents Channel, tells Yahoo Parenting. “Kids still love it so much as they grow, and some of the things that reading aloud does is to continue their ability to understand stories. It also boosts their continued vocabulary acquisition and, for the kids who need improvement on their reading skills, it brings stories to life for them.”

The biannual Scholastic report, managed by YouGov, is a nationally representative survey of 2,558 parents and children. McGuire finds the overall findings hopeful — and is specifically encouraged by the feedback from kids that shows an awareness of their favorite types of reading material. Above all, the survey found, children lean toward stories that are funny, feature “smart, strong or brave” characters, and are ones that kids have picked out for themselves. It’s good information to have when trying to help your own children find books that will excite them. Here’s more advice from McGuire on getting kids to read: 

Build A Culture Of Book Loving From The Start

Children ages 12 to 17 with parents who are avid readers and who also live in a home with more than 150 books, read an average of nearly 40 books per year (compared to the 4.7 a year read, on average, by infrequent readers). Don’t forget about books when buying birthday or holiday gifts, McGuire suggests, and read aloud to your kids — starting from birth, as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Also, continue through the tween years — 40 percent of kids age six to 11 whose parents had stopped the practice, said they wish it had continued.  

Tune Into Your Child’s Interests

It only makes sense that kids get more excited about books that intrigue them, or that they have picked out, and parents who realize that can more effectively help foster their love of reading. “If they like sports, offer Sports Illustrated or books about athletes,” McGuire suggests. If you have older kids who are reading on their own, try picking up those books and reading them yourself, she adds — that way you’ll have a shared interest in the storyline, and can discuss it, which makes reading a bonding experience.

Be Aware Of Kids’ Reading Level 

Encouraging a child to read a book that’s too hard can be intimidating. So make sure you’re on the same page by reaching out to your kid’s teacher and identifying his or her precise reading level, then hitting the bookstore or library to choose appropriate titles.

Don’t Make Screen Time The Forbidden Fruit

 McGuire suggests encouraging stretches of independent reading time along with time for video games or other screen adventures. And don’t rule out e-books, either, she stresses, as reading stories on the Kindle is just as valuable as in the bound book your daughter might hate lugging around. “It’s all about creating a culture of balance in your home,” she says.