Keep Your Child Awake to Read
My son read many hours over the summer, partly because this is his third favorite way to pass the time (the first is to play with a friend; the second is all the time on the screen), and partly because he was trying to earn a coupon for a restaurant.
Our local library hosted a summer reading program with prizes of various levels. The restaurant coupon was one of the highest goals, but his eight-year-old heart was set to do just that. (His fourth favorite way to pass the time is to eat a particularly good batch of fries at a restaurant.)
Pamela Paul, author and editor of the New York Times Book Review, recently wrote for the Times that I’m going wrong. Reading shouldn’t be rewarded because reading shouldn’t count as work , she says:
Right. You can say no to Read-a-Thon returning to school. No three cheers to finish a book or a dollar for every book you read. No extra time on the iPad if she please completes one chapter of the book with one chapter.
As reading should not be a punishment, it should not be rewarded. It doesn’t have to be a job, and it doesn’t have to be required in order to earn time to play. Reading is not something to go through diligently, considering every heading.
I understood her point of view (and I definitely wouldn’t pay my child to read). But I’m trying to build up his reading muscles so that reading becomes part of the natural rhythm of this life. And I’m in a bit of a rush because he’s only a few weeks before he turns 9, which is a magical age where a lot of kids stop reading for fun .
So Paul and I will have to agree to disagree about that; If a restaurant coupon prompts my child to flip through a few more books, I’ll happily go with him fries.
However, she has another suggestion that I have found particularly effective: let them stay up after they go to bed to read.
Reading is itself a privilege, an advantage, and a pleasure. Let’s treat it this way.
Does your child want to stay up late? Tell him that if he wants to read in bed, he can fall asleep half an hour before going to bed. Otherwise, the light turns off at 20:00.
Although my son is quite capable of reading on his own, my husband and I still read to him / her at night. A couple of weeks ago, around the time we were transitioning from a later than usual summer bedtime schedule for school, we made a decision: okay, okay, you can stay awake a little later if you want. keep reading on your own.
We are limiting it in time, at least for now. But I know some parents who let their kids go to bed as long as they want while they read. (After all, they’re bound to fall asleep in the middle of a paragraph at some point, like the rest of us.)
Letting them put off bedtime to read fuels their urge to stay up later, makes them feel like a legitimate Big Child, and, Paul says, makes reading a privilege.