Did you know that there is one thing that kids can do outside of school that’s been proven, over and over, to lead to them doing significantly better in all other subjects?
And I mean all subjects. Math, history, science, criminology, psychology—you name it.
There’s one thing, and numerous research studies have proven it, that kids do that leads to them getting better jobs later in life.
This one thing, proven by research, leads them to grow up to make more money.
And it doesn’t matter if they start in a rich or poor family. This one thing leads them to greater opportunity. Over and over again.
It’s a thing that kids actually can learn to love. For some it becomes as delicious as eating ice cream.
The kids are back in school. Parents want them to do well. They want them to succeed. How wonderful that there’s one thing that parents can focus on that will so dramatically change their child’s life.
And it doesn’t take long. Even just twenty minutes per day of this activity can change everything.
Is there a parent anywhere that can’t find twenty minutes?
So what is this one thing?
Reading for pleasure.
Notice I didn’t say reading for academic purposes. I didn’t say reading to finish homework. I said reading for pleasure. For the enjoyment it brings.
And it doesn’t matter what the subject matter is. It can be fiction—fantasy, love stories, horror, action. It can be non-fiction—like material on bugs, robots, horses, motocross. It can be fairy stories or funny anecdotes. It can be short or long. The key is that they’re reading for pleasure.
I know some of you might be saying, “But John, my kid doesn’t like to read.”
That’s okay. You can change that.
If you want to find out how to help your child learn to enjoy reading, let me recommend Raising Kids Who Read: What Parents and Teachers Can Do by Daniel T. Willingham, a professor at the University of Virginia whose research has focused on the brain and learning. In the book, Willingham debunks the myths about literary instruction and provides practical, engaging, research-based tips for sharing the joy of reading with kids of all ages.
You can get a used copy for $13 bucks on Amazon.
While you’re waiting for the book to come, here are some things you can do start doing right now to help your child read for pleasure.
First, start reading something fun or interesting with or to them every day. For little kids, this can be picture books. For older kids, this can be anything–an article from a magazine, funny stories online, or books large and small. If you want to start with a joke book, that’s okay. If you want to start by listening to a book on tape, that’s great too.
Wait a minute? A book on tape? Isn’t that cheating?
There are four keys to helping your child read for pleasure. They need to learn to:
- Decode the sounds letters make.
- Comprehend what’s meant, which is driven by their general knowledge of the subject they’re reading about.
- Enjoy reading.
- Identify themselves as a person who likes to read books
When you listen to a book on tape, you’re doing numbers 2-4.
Remember: the goal is not to improve the child. It’s not to get them a better job ten years from now. It’s not to make them wealthy. It’s to simply help them enjoy reading. Because once they enjoy reading, once reading for pleasure is something they see as one of the things they do, they will begin to read more and more. And as they read, they become better at reading, which leads to more enjoyment, which leads to more reading. Which leads to all of those other awesome benefits. It’s a virtuous cycle.
So the first thing you need to do is simply start having a good time reading with them. You can read to them at bedtime, after dinner, on weekends. You can have them read articles to you while you’re making dinner or washing the dishes. You can have them read to your or themselves while you’re on the road driving somewhere.
You can make a rule that they have to read with you for twenty minutes before they go play with friends or watch TV or play video games.
And above all, you need to let your child’s interests drive most of the topics you read about. If they want to read about spiders and dinosaurs, then read about spiders and dinosaurs. If they want to read horror stories, then read horror. If they’re into skiing or horses or guns, then help them find interesting stuff on the topics they’re already interested in. And if they don’t like a book, teach them they can abandon it and go find another.
And if you yourself are not someone who reads for pleasure, well, now’s the time to start. You can make reading for pleasure something your family does, just like families make enjoying boating or hunting or riding horses or eating Mexican food part of what they do.
It’s never too late to start.
And seeing that this is the one thing that has such an impact on your child’s success, is there really anything else that would be a better use of those twenty minutes per day?
Reading for pleasure—who knew that having a great time could have so many wonderful effects? Start today. Don’t wait.
It might take a little work. You and your child might run into a few unpleasant spots. But that’s true of anything. How many times do kids fall when learning to water ski or snow ski? How many times do they experience something unpleasant when practicing football or basketball or volleyball?
So start right now. Figure out a time with your child. And begin learning to read for pleasure.