You often hear how critically important it is to get your children interested in books, both for the sake of their reading skills and less obvious factors like emotional intelligence. Some kids naturally gravitate toward books like white on rice, but what about the ones who are more reluctant readers? How do you get your kid to love books if their preference is always to be doing something else?
Judy Packhem, Reading Specialist and Consultant and owner of Shaping Readers, says it's all about making reading a natural and enjoyable part of your family life. In an exclusive interview with Romper, Packhem suggests parents include children in reading to plan family outings (travel guides, maps, trip advisor reviews), to complete a DIY project, or before seeing a movie based on the book. Packhem believes children should never be bribed or rewarded for reading, but that parents should highlight for their kids the ways reading is its own reward in natural, everyday life.
These days, mainstream advice urges parents to spend at least 20 minutes a day reading with their children, a number upheld by Speech-Language Pathologist Jann Fujimoto. Fujimoto tells Romper that the 20 minutes doesn't have to be done in one sitting, but can be broken into two or three chunks throughout the day. Her other suggestions for reading that centers around the entire family are regularly visiting libraries and book stores together, and listening to audiobooks while driving in the car.
It may be that reading together with your child is more of a bonding experience than you'd think. In an interview with Romper, Erin Leyba, PhD and author of the new release Joy Fixes for Weary Parents, says parents are prone to underestimate the power of physical proximity. Having your child sit in your lap or close beside you as you read together releases the chemical neurochemicaloxytocin, which makes both parent and child feel good. Leyba goes on to add that the physiological benefits extend into regulation of hormones, decrease of parental stress, and improvement of cognitive and emotional development. That's a powerful lap, with or without a book.
Most parents have experienced the phenomenon that when you're stressed, your kids get stressed. So when it comes to reading, perhaps the best gift you can give your children is a laid-back attitude of simply enjoying books together. Because the beautiful thing about family is that everything's better when you're together.