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The Informed Parent

Good Reading Habits

by Peter W. Welty, M.D., F.A.A.P.
Published on Dec. 27, 2000

Pediatricians and family physicians are expanding the concept of "wellness" to include many aspects of child development. This includes language development, school performance, and family functions. These changes are coming about as we realize that a truly well child has more than a healthy body. Your child's physician is interested in the total health and well-being of your child. This would include the ability and desire to read.

Although most children learn to read in the first years of elementary school, many do not accomplish the task fluently or with pleasure. In order to succeed in this, the child must surpass the stumblings and insecurities of early reading, and find confidence in new skills.

There are many ways parents can encourage reading and help their children find a love for it. Although most steps are directed to the child, first and foremost the parents must be good role models at home. The following are some helpful steps:

  • Let your child see you reading. Show them by example.
  • Read aloud to your children. Make it a family routine.
  • Consider a family silent-reading period. Separately, but at the same time.
  • Establish a bedtime reading period.
  • Fill your house with books. Display them in easy to get places.
  • Provide reading comfort, good lighting, and a comfortable body position.
  • Join the public library. Take family trips to the library.
  • Take your children to the bookstores. Let them choose.
  • Limit television. No more than 10 hours per week for school-age children.
  • Talk to your children about reading, favorite books, etc.

Along with encouraging reading, parents should foster their child's ability to write. Reading and writing represent the receptive and expressive components of the written language. Help them keep family journals of trips. Put together a scrap book of some family event. One could also support keeping a diary.

Some children may rebel against the idea of limiting their TV time in order to encourage reading. In this case, redirect interest in family activities, homework projects, church functions, and organized social groups, as a transition to reading time. This way reading is not placed in direct opposition to the television.

There are those children who obviously have difficulty in reading. Their attitude is one of total punishment when encouraged to sit down and read a book. There may be an undiagnosed learning disability that interferes with his ability to read. If you suspect a problem with his reading ability or comprehension skills, check with the teacher. Close observation from you and the teacher may warrant seeking addition help. Check with your child's doctor. He or she may provide a learning program evaluation in their office. If not, then ask for a referral to an appropriate location.

A positive relationship with the written word is, of course, invaluable. Good reading skills widen a child's range of opportunities. At the same time these honed skills enable limitless opportunities for entertainment and pleasure. Any other suggestions from readers who have been successful in promoting the love of reading in their children would be welcomed.

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