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June 21, 2024

Where Every Family Matters

How to Grow a Reader

Are The Days of Lazing Around Reading Good Stories Gone Altogether? A Psychologist and Best-Selling Author Helps to Point the Way Back From the Madness.

There’s no denying that reading to children when they’re little spells success for early literacy, but how do you grow a reader after you’ve given your kid a cell phone? If they haven’t gotten hooked on books and reading before they get a device, it’s going to be an epic battle to make it happen.

“Jack! You need to get some reading done today!” the young mother shouts to her 10-year-old boy. Jack, pretending he doesn’t hear his mom, runs around the corner and zips out the door. Ah yes, summer begins … and it starts.

How to Grow a Reader

In his new book, The Anxious Generation: How the Great Rewiring of Childhood Is Causing an Epidemic of Mental Illness, NYU professor Jonathan Haidt notes that today’s increasing rates of adolescent loneliness, friendlessness and depression – as well as the coinciding decline in math, reading, and science scores among kids – is connected to when they get smartphones and transfer their social lives online.

Haidt says the way back to a normal, balanced childhood — that puts education and reading for kids at the center — is to hold off on giving kids cell phones. He suggests this:

Four New “Norms” while raising children … or, how to grow a reader.

  • No smartphones before high school
  • No social media before 16
  • Phone-free schools
  • More independence, free play, and responsibility in the real world

Haidt believes schools should be phone-free. “The phones don’t just make the kids anxious and lonely, they make them less intelligent,” he says. Haidt’s is a radical and troubling point of view because it will make most of today’s young parents uncomfortable. After all, they were born native to tech. But they never saw how reading and education could be jeopardized for their kids. Food for thought.

However, in aiming to get your kids reading — this summer and beyond — DO try to employ healthy habits at home. After all, stronger reading skills in the early years predict higher intelligence later in life.

Simple Strategies to Build Strong Readers (from the U.S. Department of Education)

• Invite your child to read with you daily.

• When reading a book where the print is large, point word by word as you read. This helps your child learn that reading goes from left to right. It also helps your child understand that the word he says is the word he sees.

• Read your child’s favorite book over and over again. Make it more fun by creating special voices for the different characters in the book. This goes a long way in helping bring a story to life when read aloud.

• Read lots of stories with rhyming words and lines that repeat. Encourage your child to join in on these parts. Point, word by word, as he reads along with you.

• Discuss new words. For instance, “This big house is called a palace. Who do you think lives in a palace?”

• Stop and ask about the pictures and about what is happening in the story.

• Read from a variety of children’s books, including fairy tales, song books, poems and information books.

As a reminder, reading is at the heart of all learning. Kids who can’t read well can’t learn. Do your part to instill the gift of reading in your child from the start.

Read more about Jonathan Haidt’s book here.


Discover more things to do HERE!

About the Author

Susan Swindell Day, Editor

Susan Swindell Day is the editor in chief of Nashville Parent and the mom of four amazing kids.