One of the things I loved when I taught 7th grade Language Arts was how kids would treat me as their personal "Pandora" for reading.
There were some kids that would come to me more than once a week saying, "I just finished 'Huckleberry Finn'. What should I read now?" These students' appetites for reading were insatiable.
Anyone who loves reading can quickly reflect on all of the experiences reading has given them over the years. Whether we are acting as educators or as parents, we want to see that love of reading grow in every child. Not just because statistics make us painfully aware that reading success equals life success, but also because there is an inherent joy in sharing experiences with our children or students.
Through my students' own habits, as well as meeting their parents at various functions, I was able to observe some of the practices that would help create such readers. With my wife, I'm now in the process of trying to create that intrinsic love of reading in my own three-year-old daughter.
Here is the plan:
Be a good role model
Just as in everything else, small children get their social cues on reading from their parents. If they see their parents reading, they are more likely to want to read themselves. My bookish students were often followed into the classroom on Open House Night by equally bookish parents.
This does not mean you have to sell your TV. It just means to display to your child how balanced you are. If you typically read in bed - after your child has been put down - try moving your reading to a time when the child is awake and can observe. You'll be amazed at how interested they will become in reading once they see you reading conspicuously. They will probably want to join you.
Your job is to provide
I believe a lot of parents are intimidated about fostering a love of reading in their children because they think they need to be able to teach reading skills to their young reader. I assure you, your child receives plenty of skills instruction in school from trained reading teachers. What teachers have no way of providing enough of is the time to read.
They only see your child for a short period of time during the day. It's nearly impossible for the student to get enough practice during that time. The most valuable thing you can do for your child's reading skills is to simply provide the time and the means for them to practice.
Different content is key
When I was growing up, we did not have a lot of books in our house - much less than the house my daughter is growing up in. However, my parents subscribed to a wide variety of magazines and newspapers. I was a voracious reader of that content, which I think helped make me a well-rounded person in adulthood. It wasn't until after college that I started reading books with the same vigor.
Even though I was not a huge fan of books at the time, I still consistently scored in the 95th percentile on reading assessments. The point is: it doesn't matter what your child wants to read as long as they are reading consistently.
The only caveat is that the content that is available today is much different from what was available back in the 80's and 90's. Make sure you're monitoring what your child is reading online, not only for appropriateness but also for reliability.