Dear Mom, Dad, and Teacher:
This Is Why I Read

by Kari Ness Riedel

Photo credit: Wealan Pollard, OJO Images/Getty Images

For the past year, I’ve had the privilege of facilitating after-school book clubs for fourth and fifth graders. The Bookopolis Book Club is not intended to increase Lexile level or earn Accelerated Reader points. We do not spend hours crafting well-written book reports. Our weekly meetings are social, project oriented, and put an emphasis on the love of reading rather than a deep analysis of literature. The goal of Book Club is to encourage kids to spend more time reading. To read more — not because it’s a chore or something to mark off on your reading log for the night — but because it’s a fun thing to do.

On the last day of our ten-week Bookopolis Book Club session, I asked a group of fourth and fifth graders a simple question: Why do you read? Here are some of their sincere and unprompted answers:

“I love reading because it takes my mind off of things when I’m sad.”

“Reading is like watching a movie in your head, but it’s good for you.”

“I love to read because my older sisters are always reading and they inspire me to read more. It takes you to a different world, away from everything that is happening. And it gives me a great feeling inside.”

“You can learn a lot of things from reading. It’s where I go to get new information. Except sometimes at school I get too carried away reading and then I don’t hear what my teachers say.” —Adam

“Each story is a new land, a new place you can go to. You can always have adventures with your characters.” —Emma

I love these quotes. For these kids, reading is an escape, a way to learn new things, a way to experience the world, a way to make sense of their feelings, and a way to relax.

When kids first learn to read in their early elementary years, it’s usually a joy-filled activity. Something they are proud to do and look forward to doing. Then, somewhere along the way, many kids stop identifying themselves as “readers.” They get busy. Reading becomes uncool or just a school assignment that is forced upon them.

While I know that deeper comprehension, improved reading level, and other measurable literacy achievements are critical in our educational system, my hope is that, as parents and educators, we continue to encourage our kids to read just because it feels good.  Let’s remind kids that reading isn’t work, it’s actually fun.

How do we do that?  Here are three tips I’ve learned from running Book Clubs:

1. Talk about Books!
Ask them about the characters in the book they are reading. Tell them about what you’re reading. Let your kid recommend a book they loved to you — and read it.

2. Make it Fun!
Kids love videos and games. Have them make a video book trailer to sell a book they’ve read to another friend. Or, create a game based on characters or situations from their favorite book.

3. Celebrate!
Encourage your kid to set a reading goal like read forty books this year. Track the goal and celebrate. You could watch the movie of a book they read or go out for a special meal and talk about the book. Even a simple “Congrats, that’s amazing!” can go a long way in making kids feel proud of their reading accomplishments.

These small acts remind our kids (and us) that reading is a joy, not a chore. So, instead of just worrying about the level of what they are reading, or if they can ace a quiz about the book, help your kid to love reading just because.