It's hard to make children do things they don't want to do, especially if it doesn't involve making a mess, eating sugar, or not taking naps. There's not a lot of method to their madness most times, but a new study has found the solution to getting your kid to do at least one activity: Pick up a book. Researchers discovered one reason why your kid might not like reading and it's really quite simple.
As parents, it's totally understandable why you'd want your kids become voracious readers. According to The Guardian, a 2013 study found that kids who read just for fun have better brain development and do better on tests. And that's important in the greater scheme of things, since getting a college degree often leads to higher paying jobs, as reported by Reuters. So reading as a kid is really important, since it can have lasting consequences. But no pressure, right?
It's not your kid's fault though if they don't get into reading as a hobby (or at least last long enough with a book to get through their homework). This newest study, published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry , examined 11,000 7-year-old twins and found that kids who love reading tend to be better at reading to begin with. But how well kids read is actually heritable and how much they enjoy it is influenced by their environment.
Which means that if your family is full of people who aren't necessarily good at, or like, reading — and don't have books in the home or read in front of the younger generation — it's possible your kid won't develop as much of a love as reading as a child who grew up surrounded by bookworms, according to the findings of the study. Dr. Elsje van Bergen, of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam in The Netherlands, said in a press release accompanying the study in Eureka Alerts:
It was known that how much you do something and how well you do it are related, but for reading this study seems to solve the chicken-and-egg problem.
The researchers also concluded in the same release that children's reading levels "fuels how much they choose to read and that children therefore tend to avoid reading if they find it difficult." Which means that parents and educators should make sure they're not only focusing on reading levels, but also making the activity fun.
If your kid is doing well at reading in school and their skills don't seem to to be the issue, there are things you can do to encourage a love of books, according to PBS. One, is to start small and identify your child's interests. But you don't have to go all in with a biography of Babe Ruth if they like baseball or a history of Renaissance art for the little painter in your house. PBS explains, using a child who might be into horses, but hates reading:
Instead, consider watching a horse race with your child. Talk about the jockeys, the scores, the owners and the trainers. The next day, read the box scores in the newspaper or watch a movie about horses, like Seabiscuit. Then, closely examine the box scores or find a short nonfiction article about a related topic, like the Triple Crown or famous jockeys like Red Pollard or George Woolf.
What they're saying is that not everything they read has to be a chapter book — reading the newspaper, a magazine, or even the descriptions of their fave TV show in the guide is a great start. The point is that eventually they see that reading isn't all that hard and can be fun. So don't beat yourself up too much if your child isn't totally obsessed with reading just yet. It could just be that they find it really difficult, and that just takes more practice.
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.