Shortly after I started blogging over two years ago, I stumbled upon Jen Robinson’s Book Page. I enjoyed reading about children’s books, and through her blog, I was able to dip a toe into the “kidlitosphere” blogging community.
Other commitments caused me to lose touch for the most part, but I can still never go more than a few weeks without checking in to read one of Jen’s weekly Children’s Literacy Round-Up posts, or a check out her reviews to find a children’s book that she said adults would love as well, or a recommendation for Amanda to read.
When I began this column, I knew that I wanted to hear Jen’s thoughts “On Reading.” She revised a post that is one of the hallmarks of her site to appear here. I’m proud to introduce you to her here and now:
One day, not long after I started my blog back in 2005, I received a comment from a parent asking if I thought that his daughter would like a particular book. I had not read the book in question, but I told the parent that I thought that he should read the book with his daughter. And this got me thinking about all of the benefits that can come from parents reading the books that their children read.
I’ve always been a proponent of the reading of children’s books by adults (see my earlier article about this: Why You Should Read Children’s Books as an Adult). I think that there are many good reasons why adults should be giving children’s books a second (or third, or fourth) look. But I think that for parents, reading the books that your children read can have particularly large benefits, as follows.
- If you read the books that your children read (either by reading aloud with them, or just by quietly each reading on your own), you’ll have a much better idea of what your children like, and what each child’s reading level is. This will help you to pick out other books for them, and they’ll be the right books. Your child will also be able to tackle slightly more difficult books than he or she would otherwise, because of having you there as a backup.
- If you read the books that your children read, the books will naturally lead to discussions about things that are going on in your kids’ own lives. This is especially true if you read aloud with your kids even after they are old enough to read on their own. For example, you could ask “What do you think about the fact that Simone doesn’t smoke pot, even though her friends do?” or “Would you want to the surgery to be Pretty, if you knew that it would make you look like everyone else, or would you rather be unique?” (bonus points for anyone who recognizes these references). I’m not saying that you should force these discussions, by any means, but it seems to me that the books could open certain conversational doors, if you let them.
- Reading the books that your children read sends a clear message to your kids that what they read is important to you. This tells them that
a) they are important to you, and
b) that you value books and reading.
So, you get to make your child feel justly cherished, and you get to validate the importance of books. And I can’t emphasize enough how important this last point is. Even if your child is a bookworm at age eight, there are many pressures to stop reading as he gets older. Surely parental reinforcement, putting your money where your mouth is, time-wise, can help to prevent this. And there are many reasons why it’s good for your child to continue as a bookworm (increased vocabulary, improved math skills, exposure to classic literature, increased confidence, etc.).
If your child is a serious bookworm, you probably won’t be able to find the time to read ALL of the books that she reads. But you’ll know which ones are important, which ones are favorites, and you can focus on those. I have a friend who, in reading with her now 13-year-old daughter, has had great success with this approach. I’ve learned a lot from them, and I’ve discovered many wonderful books through their shared reading experience.
So give it a try. Read the books that your children read. The potential rewards– closeness, reinforcement of the value of reading, and improved communication– are well worth the effort. And you get to enjoy reading some great kids’ books at the same time. What a win-win proposition!
One final note: although I have addressed this article towards parents, the same idea applies to anyone who works with, or has a relationship with, kids: teachers, librarians, aunts, uncles, grandparents. I would think that it would work for anyone who has an interest in kids, and who wants them to keep reading as they get older. Read what the kids read. Then talk with them about the books. The rewards are endless!
This article was originally published on Jen Robinson’s Book Page and is reprinted here with permission, with minor changes.
Have you made it a practice to keep reading with your independently reading child? If not, do you want to commit to do something together in these last weeks of summer? Perhaps you and your child could pick out a Children’s Classic to read and post about it in our new monthly carnival.