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Guest Blog Post – Raising a Lifelong Reader

Throughout this school year, we will feature guest bloggers to share different perspectives on or experiences with boys education on our Head of School blog. Our next guest blogger is Betsy Hurst, Regis Reading Specialist, who writes about things parents can do to raise a lifelong reader.

As parents and teachers, we all strive for our boys to love to read and to be "lifelong readers." How does this happen? Kids can become lifelong readers for a variety of reasons. Sometimes he discovers a book that captures his imagination and opens up a whole new world to him. In some cases, it's a teacher who assigns a book that is the "hook" that sparks his love for reading. And perhaps, most importantly, parents influence their children's reading by modeling good reader behavior and sharing their love of literature with their children—by always having a book nearby that they are reading, making trips to the library or bookstore, taking a book along in the car or plane with them.

Here are some tips for encouraging a love of reading from the early years and beyond:

Read aloud to your son. Most parents read aloud to their young children, often at bedtime or naptime. It's a wonderful feeling to have your child on your lap, snuggled next to you on the couch, or drifting off to sleep as you enjoy picture books together. Yes, you may have read Goodnight, Moon a hundred times, but please read it just one more time! Your son will remember the expression in your voice and the closeness you share for years to come.

Keep it up even after your child learns to read on his own. He will enjoy it longer than you think. As a former Kindergarten and 4th grade teacher, I learned that almost all kids love to be read to, no matter their age. They benefit from the rhythm of the language, learn correct pronunciation, and get to relax and simply enjoy the text.

Savor a series. Often kids become book lovers for life after getting hooked on a series. There are lots of good ones that keep kids hungry for the next one in the series. I can vividly recall the excitement when my students received a Book Club order form that contained a new book in their favorite series! Some suggestions are The Boxcar Children, Magic Treehouse, Nate the Great, the I Survived series, and Harry Potter.

Find a favorite author. Often, after reading a book that the student really enjoyed, he would ask me if the author had written any other books and would look for them in the school library. If you find that your son has found a writer that he loves, take a trip to your local library to look for more books by that author. Here are some common favorites for younger children: Beverly Cleary and Dav Pilkey; and for older children: Kate DiCamillo, Judy Blume, Louis Sachar, and James Patterson.

Funny is fine. Parents often wonder about letting their children read Captain Underpants, Diary of a Wimpy Kid and other humor books about kids getting in trouble. You can talk with your son about the content, but remember that kids often like these books not because they want to be like the character but because they can live vicariously through the character and his "bad" behavior. Reading something is better than not reading, and humor can be a great pathway to loving books.

Comics are OK. When graphic novels became popular a few years ago, I struggled personally with whether or not graphic novels were acceptable reading material until I heard a lecture on boys and reading. The speaker emphasized the importance of allowing boys to read whatever captured their attention within reason. Again, reading something is better than not reading at all. So, I embraced the concept and now see that boys LOVE this type of novel. Graphic novels are great for "reluctant readers" and kids just learning to read. Generally, they are fast paced, and the word-to-picture correlation provides an easy way to expand children's vocabularies. Your son may start with Squish, move on to Diary of A Wimpy Kid, and eventually Amulet.

By now, you may be asking "What about e-books?" Some recent studies say that more than half of kids in the United States are reading digital books at least once a week. This format can be especially engaging for boys and reluctant readers and is easy for reading while traveling. But other studies show that these e-books can be distracting and inhibit reading comprehension. E-books and books in print have their respective advantages, but there is something satisfying about holding a book, turning the pages, and knowing that you are nearing the end of a really good story!

It is important for your son to see reading as part of not only his life but yours as well. Read everything: books, comics, newspapers, magazines, street signs, even the back of cereal boxes. Introduce them to the magic of reading when they are young. It is one of the best gifts you can give your son!

Bio: This is Betsy's 12th year at The Regis School. Prior to her role as the Reading Specialist, Betsy served as a Fourth Grade teacher and Kindergarten teacher. Betsy also taught at Grace School in Houston. She is a native of Mississippi and attended Mississippi State University. She holds a Bachelor's in Education from Houston Baptist University.