Required Reading Doesn’t Have to be Torture

Raising kids who read : what parents and teachers can do

Is your child required to read 20-30 minutes every day for school? Does it take more time to argue with your kid about reading than the actual amount of reading required? Do you worry that they are learning to hate reading at such a young age?

I’m going to share the technique that worked for me when I was faced with this situation. For 12 years, I worked as a professional nanny. My job was to ensure the kids did their homework every day in a timely manner with no fuss. Since my paycheck was on the line, I worked hard and researched a lot of techniques in order to succeed.

I finally found a solution that worked for me when I included myself into that reading time. That’s right; I made myself read with the kids. I didn’t read to them, but, rather, I simply sat next to them and read as well. We called it “Book Club Time.” The two kids would grab whatever book they were in the middle of, and I would grab my own. We would sit together on the couch, sometime right next to each other, sometimes far away. I would keep my phone handy, simply to watch the time, never to play on. And, the kids and I would start reading at the same time.

Occasionally, they would be chatty and ask a bunch of questions. I would simply remind them that I was reading and go back to my book. Sometimes, I would pick a children’s chapter book to read, perhaps something they had read before. (Sidenote: There are some amazing children’s books that can be enjoyed thoroughly as an adult. I’ll be happy to share some with you next time you’re in Canyon Country) Perhaps, you can find something you enjoy and pass it on to your kid after you’ve read it. That might make it more enticing if they know mom or dad read it and liked it.

Sometimes, I would go the adult route with my books, although the kids never liked that as much. I took suggestions from the kids. I read the entire Hunger Games trilogy because the youngest told everyone was reading it so I had to (she was seven and had no clue what it was about but she knew it was popular). I never read the same exact book that either of the kids was reading at the time because I did not want them to feel bad if I was reading it at a much faster pace than they were. Don’t be surprised if the question of how many pages you read comes up.

When the time was up, we would continue with our day. Usually, I would start making dinner, and the kids would start playing. Our book club gave us something extra to talk about while we did this. We could ask each other to talk about his or her book and make that required reading time about more than just a homework assignment. It was something we could all bond over.

Sometimes, as adults, we forget that one of our duties is to model appropriate behavior for children. By reading with the kids, I was modeling appropriate reading behavior. I was showing them that reading is a good thing that should be enjoyed, and I was showing respect toward their school assignment. Also, I believe I was showing respect to them by giving up some of my time for them. Sure, there were a ton of other things I could have been doing, but I wanted them to see that I wanted to spend that time with them. For years, that was my favorite time of the day. Eventually, the kids stopped getting assigned that reading time. They read at night while in their beds. But, I like to think that our book club had an impact on their love of reading.

There are many techniques out there, and every child is different. I just wanted to share what worked for me so you can give it a try and hopefully turn homework time into a positive situation.


Miss Angie

I am a children's librarian at SCPL's Canyon Country Library. My favorite things are funny books, ice cream, and the Matterhorn at Disneyland.

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