Leading the Way

Why teaching kids to love reading is important

What do Michael Bloomberg, Queen Latifah and Olivia the Pig have in common?

They’re all celebrities who got “caught reading” as part of Get Caught Reading. It’s a nationwide campaign to promote the fun of reading books for all ages, with a special focus in May, which is Get Caught Reading Month.

Perfect timing, right? While you’re stockpiling beach reads for your upcoming vacation, your kids are counting the days (minutes) until school is out when they can fling their books in the air and forget about reading until the fall.

Don’t let it happen: The future of the free world just might depend on it. Or at least, your child’s future.

Consider these chilling facts from Literacy Inc.:
• Children who don’t read proficiently by third grade are four times more likely to drop out of high school.
• Two-thirds who are still struggling by the end of fourth grade will end up in jail or on welfare.
• 50% of U.S. adults can’t read an eighth-grade level book, and nearly that many can’t understand the labels on their prescriptions.

And it’s not just being able to read, but loving to read. A third of high school graduates never read a book after high school.

How to crack the books
Fortunately, there are lots of easy, free and fun ways you can help kids develop a love of reading that can reap untold lifelong benefits.

Read to them. A 5-minute bedtime story or a lazy hour on the porch swing: It’s not the amount of time you spend or even what you read that matters, as long as you do it together. And don’t cheat by asking your home virtual assistant device to do it for you. That’s no more “reading” than is watching the movie version of a book. Both are entertaining, but very different.

Be a role model. Put the cell phone and TV remote away in the evening, and let your kids see you reading instead. Have conversations about books you’re each reading.

Take them to the library. Let them get their own library cards (many libraries allow this) and pick out their own books. Make a visit a part of your weekly routine.

Volunteer with a local literacy group. Those like Midlands Reading Consortium ask only 30 minutes of your time, once a week during the school year. You’ll model the joy of reading and help a youngster develop not just a skill, but an avocation to enjoy throughout life.

Organize a book drive. Ask your neighbors, church members or other social group to donate new or gently used books for a nearby school, library or children’s hospital.

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