Raising a reader

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent

I'd hoped to share the joy of reading with my son, Ian, but so far, he has other ideas. In his 8-year-old world, joy centers on any activity other than curling up with a book.

Trust me when I say, I have tried everything from bedtime stories, gadgety bookmarks that double as timers and, yes -- I'm loathe to admit it -- bribery.

Turns out my strategies may be the stumbling block, according to educator Helena Dameron, who is supervisor of Reading and Language Arts for Columbus City Schools.

"Parents really have to embrace what is the cultural influence at the time," Dameron advises.

Oh boy, this could get ugly. Ian is fascinated with video games, sports and anything high tech.

Dameron says the key to getting him on board with books in his free time starts with finding titles that support his interests: "Boys are more often interested in non-fiction, something that happened dramatically."

She recommends books based on television shows or graphic novels as opposed to comic books. There is even, according to Dameron, a place for using the computer to keep children reading: She says downloading books gives them that connection to technology.

Self-selection of books also is vital to raising a reader. Those summer reading lists from school can be helpful, but only as a start. Experts say you should allow your child to choose, keeping in mind you are the bridge between school and home.

"The way reading is done in school is to match reading level to instruction, but that may not be what's at their interest level," said Dameron. So at home, interest level trumps instructional level and may help reading seem like fun, not drudgery.

Once you select the books, the next challenge is actually getting your child to open them. Again, I discovered I'm doing it all wrong by designating a time for reading -- and setting the timer.

"That's just work," according to Dameron, who says children will then start to consider reading a chore.

Instead she says it's better to regard reading the same as any other family activity. Simply making a trip to the library counts, but, she added, "It has to be a regular time, so go at least once a week to convey that reading is not just something we do at school."

I'm putting this advice to the test with Ian during summer vacation. Ideally we'll know if we've made the grade based on how much reading gets done -- without complaints, the timer or even a bribe.