Reading for fun has the power to increase self-confidence, strengthen imagination, act as a stress reliever, provide thoughtful insight into different cultures and customs, and give children an important sense of connection to others.
However, the 2019 Scholastic Kids & Family Reading Report found that while 57 percent of 8-year-olds report reading five to seven nights per week, only 35 percent of 9-year-olds can say the same. Similarly, while 40 percent of 8-year-olds say they love reading, only 28 percent of 9-year-olds say they do.
In other words: Kids around the age of 9 often experience the “decline by nine,” a slump in the love of reading that’s startling to parents who see a happy reader one day and a less-than-eager reader the next. It’s crucial to address, too, given how important reading is to overall academic success (and in our opinion, overall happiness!).
Read on for practical tips for nourishing your child’s love of reading so they can continue to thrive at 9 — and beyond.
1. Let Them Read What They Want
Reading is reading, and it doesn’t matter what the topic is or how many pictures are in the book. As long as the content is age appropriate, let your kids read what they want, whether that includes graphic novels or fantasy novels. According to the report, kids across all demographics agree that their favorite books are the ones they’ve chosen for themselves.
The report also found that children want to read books that entertain them, make them laugh (like the Captain Underpants series!), or allow them to experience new places with diverse cultures and characters. However, four in ten children have a hard time finding books they like.
One way to help your child find potential titles is to talk with them about what makes one book appeal to them over another. For instance, encourage them to preview the outside of the book they're considering. Have them look at the title, the cover illustrations, and description. Next, have them open the book and do a quick browse. If they still think it could be of interest, suggest they flip to the first page and read it. How do they feel about it now?
Tell your child it’s okay to not finish a book they've chosen to read for fun. At some point or another, all readers start books that they end up disliking. Some will persevere and read all the way to the end, while others will make the decision to put the book aside in favor of another title (which is better than not reading at all!).
2. Tap Into Popular Book Trends
Whether it’s Aaron Blabey’s very funny The Bad Guys series or the school hallway drama in Rachel Renee Russell’s Dork Diaries, finding out what is currently popular with your child’s peers is a great way to tap into books that your child may actually enjoy reading for fun. Ask fellow parents or your child’s teachers for recommendations.
3. Fill Your Home With Books
Surround your children with books, representing a diverse range of genres and authors. Don’t discount comic books and magazines that align with your child’s interests. When the topic of a book or magazine relates to a subject your child already has background knowledge on, the reading will generally be easier and more enjoyable, thanks to all of that familiar vocabulary.
4. Consider Your Child’s Routine
Is there regular time for reading built into your child’s day? As children become busier with homework and hobbies, or more interested in spending time on screens, reading is often pushed aside. Making time for “fun” reading is invaluable in sustaining a reading habit. Regularity is really the key to success with this one, so choose the times that work best within your family’s weekly routine.
In a similar vein, it’s a great idea to encourage your child to take a book to read whenever you anticipate that they'll need to be waiting around for something, such as before appointments.
5. Keep Reading With Them
Reading aloud to (or with) your child, even as they are able to read independently, continues the tradition of reading as an interesting, enjoyable, and relaxing way to connect. This makes diving into books more fun for the whole family!
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