Recently, read-aloud-with-children guru Jim Trelease reported findings from a University of Southern California study which found that "the child growing up in an environment brimming with books, magazines, and newspapers, seeing and hearing a parent read, owning a library card... will have far higher scores than will the child raised in a print vacuum." Mr. Trelease comments that "readers raise readers because they do the raising in an environment that nurtures it... The child raised in a "rain-forest" of print consistently outscores the child raised in a print "desert."
To find out if your home is a reader-friendly environment, answer yes or no to the following:
- Are there reading materials of different levels (including the reading levels of your children) readily accessible in your home?
- Does each of your children have books or magazines to call their own (owned or borrowed)?
- Do your children see the adults and/or older siblings reading and talking about what they are reading on a regular basis?
- Does someone read with your children at home at least three or four times weekly?
- Is reading recreationally (choosing reading as a leisure activity) rewarded in your home (or used as a reward) and/or substituted for that extra hour of TV?
- Do you involve your children in reading-related activities in the course of their everyday lives (writing and reading lists, reading billboards or street signs, sorting the mail, reading notes from the teacher together, etc.)?
- Have you talked with your children about their reading skills for life?
- Does your child have at least one place in the house for homework and reading activities?
- Do you as a family devote time to visiting the bookstore, school book fair, library, storyteller's sessions or reading together?
- Do you know what your child is reading at home and at school?
- Do you include books or magazines as gifts when presents are exchanged in your family?
- Is reading a positive, fun experience for those in your household?
Scoring: Count up your "yes" answers and give yourself 3 points. "No" answers result in zero points. Don't worry; no one has the "perfect" reader-friendly home.
Up to 10 points: help is just around the corner at your local library.
11-18 points: check out the practical ideas below for ways to work more reading into your family's lifestyle.
19-24 points: you're doing some great things to support your children's literacy - read on for more ideas.
25-30 points: Congratulations! Your home is a certified "reader friendly" environment!
ACTION PLAN: Practical Ways to Make Your Home More Reader-Friendly
Making your home "reader friendly" can be as simple as choosing one of your "no" answers from the above quiz and turning it into a "yes!"
If you scored in the lower half of the test, just select one to begin. If #3 was a "no" for you, think about what the example of you not reading says to your children. If you don't think reading is important, why should they? Give yourself credit for all the reading you do in a day. We sometimes take that simple activity for granted but most of us are reading from the time we get up in the morning. We read the alarm clock, we read the morning paper, we read the instructions for instant cereal or microwave breakfast foods, we read road signs, we read that last-minute note from the teacher -- the list goes on and on. Emphasizing that reading is critical to functioning in today's information-rich society is one sure way to convince everyone reading-friendly surroundings is worthwhile.
How we live our lives and the environment we create in our homes is a matter of choice. Each day we make decisions on how we will spend our time and energy, and we can control that. Deciding to set aside an hour or so on two Sunday afternoons a month (not a big time-commitment) at the public library instead of in front of the TV can open a whole new world to your family. Many public libraries now have free Internet access, computer learning games as well as books and magazines on topics that will interest everyone. If you have a family trip or project coming up, or are just choosing healthier eating habits, why not spend time at the library learning about how to do it right? Whether it's planting a vegetable garden for the first time or planning a weekend at the beach, the library is full of information. And guess what -- you'll be reading in the process! You'll have fun in spite of yourselves because you're gathering information about something important to you!
Make Reader a Reward
Here's a great, easy-to-use method to make reading a reward, not a restriction, at home. All children want to stay up past their designated bedtime. Offer for them to stay up 10 extra minutes if they will use that time to read something of their choice. Give them a flashlight for the enticing activity of reading "under the covers" or one of those cool clip-on reading lamps for a quick lights out at the end of the designated time. Never punish a child for being caught reading past their bedtime; just help them understand that there is a time for reading and a time for sleeping to be at their best.
Make Reading an Activity
Parents don't always have to sit down with a book in a structured situation to be reading or exploring sounds and language. Find activity books like "Jump like a Frog!" by Kate Burns or "The Book of Tapping and Clapping" by John M. Feierabend for your active preschooler and let them jump and dance around the room while you read. Tell children what you are doing as you go through daily activities (i.e., I'm writing out my list of groceries for my weekly trip to the store. What kind of cereal would you like? What sound does that start with? Can you see that letter on my list?). Conversations like this not only build language skills but strengthen your relationship with your child.
And speaking of conversations, don't forget those teens. They need you to talk with them as much as the toddlers do. Ask them about what they are reading in their language arts class (and read it yourself so you can have a more in-depth conversation about it). Chat about it in a casual way as you're driving him or her to get a haircut or to soccer practice.
Your home environment is the foundation for your child's future attitudes and values. With a bit of thought, any parent can create reading-friendly environments that will encourage their children to enjoy reading and see it as a useful, pleasurable experience in which they can participate and be successful.
Get more information about Jim Trelease and his publications. Also, visit the
Read All About It
For more on children’s literature, authors and the art of storytelling, check out:
Behind the Pages - Seven noted children’s book authors share their childhood memories and influences
The 100 Greatest Children’s Books of All Time – See whether your favorites made our list. If not, then add yours in our Best Children’s Books Family Forum
What Makes a Great Children’s Book? – A look at why great children’s books strike a chord and stay with us through adulthood.
The Very Creative Children’s Book Author – A Conversation with the inimitable Eric Carle
Why Reading to Your Kids Works – Celebrated storyteller Jim Weiss discusses how sharing books and stories fosters deeper parent-child bonds.
Reading to Two – How and what to read to siblings.