Why Do Solos Need to Read with Their Kids?

Photo of young brunette woman teaching two sweet kids, cheerfulTwo answers to this question. First, reading connects you with your kid. Remember being read to as a kid? The stories, the little voices, the focused attention, and the cuddle-time? Good stuff. But for solos, reading with kids is even more important– it creates ritual in the often fractured life of a child of divorce or loss. Reading time creates a safe environment to dream and imagine together, and there’s a shared experience that doesn’t fade when the lights come up. Secondly– and an important point– according to the Children’s Reading Foundation: children whose parents read with them learn to read well and are typically proficient readers by 3rd grade.

How to get into that good habit? Here are tips that Common Sense Media Senior Book Editor Regan McMahon had to offer Solo Parent Magazine:

  1. Make reading part of the bedtime ritual: This comes naturally to lots of new parents, but it’s important to keep it up. Kids will enjoy it longer than you think. When reading to babies, toddlers, preschoolers, and kids in early grade school, it’s wonderful to have a kid on your lap, snuggled next to you on the couch, or drifting off to sleep in bed as you enjoy picture books together. But even older grade school kids will cherish this special time spent with a parent.
  2. Turn reading into a fun family adventure: Take your kids to the library once a week or once a month to get new books, make regular outings to your local bookstore, hunt for low-cost books at used bookstores or second-hand shops, and show kids that finding a good book is like a treasure hunt. Take preschoolers to story time hours at libraries and bookstores. Take tweens and teens to bookstore author readings and book signings.
  3. Set aside time for reading: After school, after homework, after dinner, before bed, on the weekends – whenever – carve out a time when you turn off the TV, computer, and cell phone, and read for fun. You read can use this time to read aloud to your kids, or each member of the family can take the reading material of their choice – a book, magazine, graphic novel, or comic book — and read silently, either together in the same room or in private spaces, like their own bedroom.
  4. You can take it with you: Model the reading lifestyle by always having a book you’re reading, and take it with you on the go. Encourage your kids to take books (or ebooks) with them in the car (unless they get car sick!), around town, on train and plane rides, on vacation, or at the beach. They’ll never be bored if they have a book to spend time with on long drives and in long lines during errands. I learned long ago to always take reading material to places like the DMV or any long-line bureaucracy. It works for kids, too!
  5. Read a series together: There are plenty of quality series for kids of all ages that have crossover appeal for adults. Discovering a good series can get your kids hooked on reading for life, and they’ll love sharing and discussing the unfolding story with you – a chapter a night or more. For beginning readers, try Ivy + Bean. For middle graders, there’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, All the Wrong Questions, and Harry Potter. For older middle schoolers, take on The Hunger Games, and for teens, Divergent.

For more suggestions, check out Regan’s blog post How to Raise a Reader: https://www.commonsensemedia.org/blog/how-to-raise-a-reader

And take a look at some of CSM’s “Top Picks” recommendations lists, such as:

Best Book Series: https://www.commonsensemedia.org/lists/best-book-series

Bedtime Books: https://www.commonsensemedia.org/lists/bedtime-books

Read-Aloud Books: https://www.commonsensemedia.org/lists/read-aloud-books

About author

Regan McMahon

Regan McMahon

Regan McMahon is senior editor, books, for Common Sense Media. She is a former book editor for the San Francisco Chronicle and author of "Revolution in the Bleachers: How Parents Can Take Back Family Life in a World Gone Crazy Over Youth Sports." She’s also the parent of two kids: Her daughter attends UC Santa Cruz and her son graduated from UCLA.

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