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Tips for Growing Bookworms: #2 Read the Books Your Children Read

Posted by Jen Robinson on November 16, 2009 at 6:00 AM in Literacy NewsRecommendations
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This is Part 2 of a continuing series on encouraging young readers. These ideas were originally captured in a post that I did on my blog in 2007, 10 Tips for Growing Bookworms. Here at Booklights I'll be expanding upon and updating each idea, and adding links for more information where I have them. You can find Tip #1: Read Aloud here.

AdultReading.jpgTip #2: Read the books that your children read, even after you are no longer reading aloud with them (or along with books you're reading together). Talk to them about these books. Let them recommend books to you. By reading the books your children read, you show them that you value them, and the books, and you open up untold avenues for important discussions. I personally think that if more parents and other adults did this, there would be less of a drop-off in reading for pleasure as kids get older (though I have no formal data to back this up). I wrote about this in more detail in a very early post on my blog. But here are three good reasons to read the books your children read:

A. Reading the books that your kids are reading will give you a much better idea of what they like, and what their reading level is. This will make it easier to help them pick out other books, to buy books for them as gifts, etc. Some parents take this approach a step further, and read certain books before their children do, so that they can help decide when the child is ready for the book. The more you know first-hand what your kids are reading, the more you can help.

B. If you and your child are reading the same books, you'll open up all sorts of doors for discussion. This is especially true for parents of teens and tweens. Today's YA titles cover a wide range of issues, and sometimes it's easier to talk in hypotheticals than in actuals. As in "hmmm, I wonder what you would do in that situation." It's a thought, anyway. I do know parents who have found this to work well.

C. Reading the books that your children are reading sends a strong message to your kids that reading in general, and specifically what they are reading, is important to you. This tells them a) that they are important to you, and b) that you value books and reading. And I can't emphasize enough how important this last point is. There are all sorts of reasons why many kids' interest in reading for pleasure drops off as they get older. All of the distractions of television and computers. All of their activities at school. A perception that reading isn't "cool" in some cases. And so on. But if you are as excited as they are about the release of the new Rick Riordan series featuring Egyptian mythology - surely that has to help.

AnotherAdultReading.jpgI'll also add a side benefit of reading the books that your kids are reading - it's a tremendous amount of fun. I know lots of people who got back into reading children's and young adult literature because of their children, and then simply never stopped, because the books were so good.

One thing I'm not sure of with this whole "read the books your children read" idea is what you do when you are flat out not interested in the type of books that your child is reading. The most common example is mothers who enjoy fiction, confronted with sons who want to read about planes, trains, and war. Any parents out there have suggestions for handling this one? All I can say is that even a little bit of effort probably goes a long way here.

Of course I'm not suggesting that you try to read everything that your kids are reading in any case. If your child is a real bookworm, this will be impossible. And some teens might resist the idea that their parents want to read all of the books that they're reading. But I'll say this: if your son or daughter (or niece or nephew or grandchild) has a favorite series, it's worth checking out an installment or two. If "everybody" in your child's class is reading Twilight, then perhaps you should, too. I think that you'll find the experience rewarding. You may help keep your older child interested in reading. And perhaps you'll find yourself hooked on children's literature, too.


Dawn R. Morris writes...

I love this post, Jen!

Here's what I think about the problem of not sharing an interest in the same types of books as your child:

1. If you expect them to be willing to try new genres, then what a great example you'd be setting by trying one of their books.

2. You never know, you might end up really liking a whole other type of book that you might not have ever been exposed to otherwise.

Family members can learn so much together, especially through books. You may not want to share every one, but that's okay. Even if you read different materials, you can still talk about the books.

When it comes to parenting, it's so important to have an open heart, and open mind, and an open book.

Thanks, Jen!

Jen RobinsonAuthor Profile Page writes...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the interests question, Dawn. That all sounds reasonable to me!

Lara writes...

I totally agree with you, Jen. Knowing what your child is reading as well as reading along has multiple benefits...some you may not be able to see for years to come.

One of the biggest is you will have a basis for conversation with your child. And, as Jen said, you can use the situations in the story to discuss how your child might handle it or what you as a family value as a choice.

Thanks for a wonderful post!

Jen RobinsonAuthor Profile Page writes...

Thanks for reading it, Lara. I agree about the benefits being there for the long term. I know families that have inside jokes based on literary references. And the basis for conversation, well, that's huge, isn't it? Especially as kids get older. Glad you enjoyed the post!

Jacqueline Jules writes...

I love this idea! It's great advice not only for parents but for teachers. When teachers can say "Did you like what that character did?" in a book a student is reading, it builds a rapport
based on literacy. My students love to discuss books they have recommended to me. They also like knowing that I value their literature and their tastes.

Jen RobinsonAuthor Profile Page writes...

That is an excellent point, Jacqueline. The teachers I know who are successful at motivating their students as readers certainly do this. And I wish that more teachers would. The books are wonderful, and, as you say, it's a great way to build rapport and show students that you value their literature and ideas. Thanks for this excellent extension!

Susan T. writes...

Lately my son is recommending books that he's enjoyed. That's been really fun.

Jen RobinsonAuthor Profile Page writes...

That must be a lot of fun, Susan. I get that a bit from my nieces and friends' kids, and I love it.

Rawley writes...

Great tips! I printed this out to give to my parents and will send home tomorrow.

Jen RobinsonAuthor Profile Page writes...

Thanks for passing this along, Rawley! I hope that some of your parents will take it to heart. I think that they'll enjoy reading the books that their kids read, I really do.

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