‘How to Raise a Reader’ gath­ers good ideas and book lists

The Fresno Bee (Sunday) - - Spotlight - BY RASHA MADKOUR

Whether your child is yet-to-be-born, a teenager or some­where in be­tween, “How to Raise a Reader” has some tips and a whole lot of book rec­om­men­da­tions for you.

Au­thors Pamela Paul and Maria Russo are par­ents them­selves, as well as edi­tors of The New York Times Book Re­view, and they draw on their ex­pe­ri­ence in both realms in writ­ing this book. They ar­gue: “School is where children learn that they have to read. Home is where kids learn to read be­cause they want to. It's where they learn to love to read.”

In or­der to do that, how­ever, par­ents need to fol­low some guide­lines. Don't fret about when your child learns to read by him­self or her­self. (“There is no ‘cor­rect' age for in­de­pen­dent read­ing and no spe­cial formula for get­ting ev­ery child to read by, say, age 5 1/2.”) Hold your tongue when it comes to your child's read­ing choices. (“There may be some spe­cific as­pect of that book that is speak­ing to your child. Or maybe he just feels like read­ing some­thing less ob­vi­ously chal­leng­ing at the mo­ment.”) Above all, prac­tice what you preach. (“If you want to raise a reader, be a reader.”) The au­thors en­cour­age par­ents to get back to read­ing them­selves if they've let that ac­tiv­ity slide, and to foster a cul­ture of read­ing in the home.

The rea­sons to do this are myr­iad. “Children who read are, yes, likely to ex­cel aca­dem­i­cally, but there's much more to the pic­ture,” the au­thors write. “The lat­est re­search shows that children who read at home are also bet­ter at self-reg­u­la­tion and ex­ec­u­tive func­tion – those life skills that make us happier and well ad­justed: con­trol­ling im­pulses, pay­ing at­ten­tion, set­ting goals and fig­ur­ing out how to achieve them.” Paul adds: “Through the nov­els they've read, they will know more about the sto­ries they want to be a part of, what kind of char­ac­ter they might be.”

The book is di­vided by age range, and each sec­tion has ad­vice on what to look for in books for that stage, what to be wary of and a list of rec­om­men­da­tions. There is also an ex­ten­sive rec­om­mended list in the fi­nal sec­tion of the book, or­ga­nized by theme (from “Books That Make Us Laugh” to “Tear­jerk­ers,” and “Great Friend­ship Sto­ries” to “Science and Na­ture”).

“How to Raise a Reader” is a sur­pris­ingly easy and quick read. The au­thors don't delve into the re­search be­hind their ad­vice, but they do share the sum­maries. Their take on why brib­ing kids to read can back­fire: “It's an ac­knowl­edged psy­cho­log­i­cal truth that ‘in­trin­sic mo­ti­va­tion' – hav­ing the de­sire to do some­thing, such as read­ing, on your own – suf­fers when the ac­tiv­ity is as­so­ci­ated with ‘ex­ter­nal con­trols' such as re­ward, pun­ish­ments, and re­quire­ments.”

Why should you al­ways reach for the phys­i­cal book in­stead of an ebook? “Stud­ies have shown that children, even more than adults, ab­sorb and re­tain sto­ries bet­ter when they read them in print.”

Al­though the au­thors discuss the im­por­tance of di­ver­sity sev­eral times through­out the book, some of the il­lus­tra­tions in­ter­spersed in “How to Raise a Reader” have the an­ti­quated, mono­lithic qual­ity that the au­thors de­cry. All the two-par­ent fam­i­lies de­picted con­sist of a white mother, white fa­ther and white child/ children. It's a dis­ap­point­ing over­sight in an oth­er­wise ex­cel­lent book.

Quib­ble aside, the book rec­om­men­da­tions alone make “How to Raise a Reader” a wor­thy buy, and the age-spe­cific tips and trou­bleshoot­ing are the ic­ing on top.

Work­man via AP

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