On Reading: How to Raise a Reader
(or how my parents did it, anyway)

  • Fill every shelf in your house with books. Build more shelves. Buy more books. Repeat.
  • Use spare moments to read books for pleasure. Sometimes to your kids. More often just for yourself. In bed late at night. In the rocking chair while nursing the baby. Out on the lawn while the kids play. In the car on trips.
  • Teach your kids to read early so they can start reading for themselves. Use phonics, not that modern whole-language foolishness.
  • When the TV breaks, don’t fix it.
  • Let your kid read under the covers with a flashlight late at night. Pretend not to notice.
  • Let your kid read wherever she wants (yes, sometimes even while playing right field at a baseball game.)
  • Go to the library. A lot. Yes, even though you end up with fines when your kid loses books under the covers.
  • Give books as gifts, as rewards, as encouragers, as advisors, as friends. Because soon enough, that is exactly what they will become.

Mary Ostyn lives in Idaho, blogs at Owlhaven, and is mother to ten children. Her book A Sane Woman’s Guide to Raising a Large Family* has recently been published.

*I (Jennifer) reviewed Mary’s book at 5 Minutes for Mom this week. Check it out yourself. I loved this delightful book, even though I am a mom of two — and plan to keep it that way! You can also enter to win a copy.

Mary was my (Jennifer) roommate in the Dominican Republic when I went last November with the Compassion Bloggers. A new group just arrived in India today. Please follow their journey. Pray for them. Learn more about the country and the children in need over there.


  1. says

    Great post! Since we just had “turn off your tv” week, I’ve just recently been thinking about the fact that TVs have way too long of life spans. We’re down to about 2. The small we got from friends, and I think it’s close to 15 years old (and works fine)! And then our main one is not quite 5 years. At some point I’m going to have to actually choose to get rid of them instead of waiting for them to break!

  2. says

    My mom read to me in the mornings after my dad had left for work.Every morning since I was small.I learnt to read very early on and since then she never had to try to get me to read.In fact they used to try and get me outside to play with the other kids(lol)

  3. says

    Loved these suggestions, especially the ever increasing presence of more and more bookshelves! I do feel obligated to mention though, that I am definitely a vocal proponent of the ‘whole language foolishness’ you quickly refer to. As a preschool teacher who combined a small amount of phonics instruction (ALWAYS within meaningful context of ongoing experiences), with very large doses of whole language approaches, I was lucky enough to be witness to ten years of preschoolers learning to read, and most importantly, understand written word. On a more intimate note, I was privileged to use my education philosophy with my own son who was reading early, and more dear to me, still loves to read at 8, an age when many boys are ‘giving up’ books too frequently!

  4. says

    Great list!

    Also don’t forget to let kids read comic books, funny books (Captain Underpants as an example), or other types of reading materials not commonly considered “literary” or “classics.” Let kids understand the joys of reading, and they’ll become life-long readers.

  5. says

    I love this post… such wonderful ideas! Would you mind my saving it to share with parents of my (future) classroom students someday?


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