Beyond the snuggle and cuddle stage of reading

Encouraging Reading with Older Children By Cathy Puett Miller, President, TLA, Inc., Home of the Literacy Ambassador®

Once children reach the stage of reading on their own, many families discontinue the “reading together” time.  The problem is that they don’t fill the void with anything different; a new approach that keeps the child engaged with books and reading is essential now more than ever.  Finding books about subjects that interest them and letting them choose what they read are two keys to keeping older students involved with books.

Here are some simple ideas to bring reading “into the picture”:

  1.  Read a book you know your child must read for school (or sections from it if you have limited time).  Great Expectations by Charles Dickens is often required reading in high school classes but the content and length of time since this classic was written may make it difficult for your child to “get” on his own.  It might even help to start with a junior classic version such as Puffin’s Great Expectations ( edited by Linda Jennings.

    Talk over the story, characters, and your personal experiences.  Compare those to what the characters did.  This is no excuse for your child not to read the book herself – it is a chance to discuss the book (an adult activity).  If the book is beyond your (the parent’s) reading level, you can still ask your child about his favorite person in the book.  Discussions will grow from there. 

  2. Keep reading materials around the house.  Magazines, newspapers, reference books, and even computers are avenues for reading.  Make sure they don’t spend ALL their time on video games!  National Geographic, Sports Illustrated, and Time all have subscriptions for young people, often available for the same or less than the cost one hardback book.
  3. Stop during each day to share something you have read.  That can be a sports headline, a fashion tip, or the latest novel.  Ask your child to help read and cook a new recipe with you.  If your children do not see your example of reading and why it is important to you why should they take time for that activity?
  4. Make sure busy family schedules leave time for relaxing and having positive experiences with books.  If teacher-assigned books or ones they choose for themselves are too difficult or do not interest them, they may stop reading.  Ask a librarian or teacher to help suggest books that might interest your child.  Spend ten minutes reading part of that book aloud to your student.  This one activity may “get them into the story” and encourage them to read the rest on their own. 

    Kids who say they don’t like to read feel that way, at least in part, because they do not have the best skills.  Skills improve with practice (just like basketball stats or applying makeup).  Help your child find a bit of time each day for reading.  It’s a great lesson in using your time well.

  5. Look for books that relate to what is going on in your child’s life.  There are many young adult authors that write to issues such as prejudice, relationships, dealing with sad or difficult feelings, or just being a teenager.  One of my favorite authors, John H. Ritter, has a new book (due out in May, 2009) entitled The Desperado Who Stole Baseball (   John writes baseball theme books but the stories are always bigger than baseball.   The true test of a book is whether it touches our lives and gives us something of value.  Reading should have a real purpose in the everyday world.

    If you as a parent are interested in more tips like this, contact TLA, Inc. and ask about the Hands into the Home Program (256-883-7005) or email with HANDS INTO THE HOME in the subject line.