Experts have long observed that the most avid readers acquire their love of reading at home. Although you've laid the foundation, this is a critical time not only to strengthen your connection to your child through books but also to take it in a new direction. Here are strategies for keeping that love alive as you all navigate the shoals of the "tween" years:
Let him read what he wants to read. Children should read what they want to, experts believe, and parents should allow them to follow their passions. If that means the Baby-sitter’s Club that my daughter favored, or today's hot Captain Underpants or Olsen twins books, so be it. Instead of worrying, ask him why he likes the books he's chosen.
Do the characters remind him of people he knows? Does he think they're true to life? Then tell him about some of the series you read as a child, and why they appealed to you.
Don't assume they're too old for read-aloud time. Children love the sound and cadence of your voice, and they often pick up more from a book when you read to them than they do when struggling over the words themselves. As you approach the tumultuous adolescent years, it's even more essential to nurture a ritual of closeness through reading.
To do that, choose a book a notch or two above your child's reading level. Discuss words that are unfamiliar, and use the themes of a book or the problems a character encounters to uncover issues with which your child may be struggling but may be reluctant to mention.
Pay attention to progress in school. Every child has his own individual learning style, which has nothing to do with intelligence or future academic success. Though children use all their senses when they read, some rely most on visual memory. Others learn by listening. Still others need the tactile component of writing letters down or coloring them in to reinforce learning. When you read together at home, focus on your child's individual style. If you sense he's struggling, talk to his teacher.
Suggest that your child read to younger siblings. To bump your child out of a reading slump, have him read to others. Kids love showing off their skills, and the praise and interest your child earns may well spark a renewed desire to read on his own. Moreover, books can provide siblings with a way to enjoy spending time together without bickering or fighting over the remote control.
Take him places. A great book doesn't have to end once you've turned the last page. Use the theme of a book, its location, or something a character did as a springboard for a family trip or activity.
If you read a book about the Civil War, visit a battlefield on vacation. The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler might inspire an outing to a local art museum.