5 Ways to Raise Better Readers

Jason Boog, author of the book, "Born Reading," shares his tips and philosophy.

Posted Jul 29, 2014

Even parents who treasure books tend to look at screens more than dead trees these days. How then, can we raise kids who love reading as much as we did? Jason Boog pursued this question with a journalist's zeal for research and an in-house experimental subject--his daughter, Olive. The result, "Born Reading: Bringing Up Bookworms in a Digital Age–From Picture Books to eBooks and Everything in Between," is a wonderful resource for parents and teachers, and a great reminder that reading to kids is not just about educating them: It's about strengthening our relationships with them and the wider world.

I asked Jason to explain some of his key recommendations.

Why is it advisable to....

1. let kids pick out their own books?

Interactive reading is the foundational principle of my entire book. I show how parents and caregivers can make any reading experience richer by asking questions, dramatizing the story and encouraging children to participate—simple techniques developed by children’s literacy experts over the last 25 years.   

Letting your child choose the book at storytime is another way to make sure that your child is having an interactive reading experience from the very beginning. You get bonus points if you make regular trips to the library and bookstore to let them discover new books themselves.

Children learn best when they are following their own interests. When my daughter fell in love with Disney’s Frozen, we headed to the library to find every book, fairy tale and audiobook we could find related to that beloved cartoon.

You can do the same thing with superheroes, space, dinosaurs, ballerinas or whatever your kid loves. This helps them learn how to navigate the library, research and chase their creative obsessions.

2. let kids to listen to audiobooks?

Audiobooks make for awesome reading time in the car. My daughter and I listen to a stack of her favorite audiobooks on the way to school every morning.

Olive figured out pretty quickly how to turn pages by herself, learning how to read and enjoy a book along with the recording. I wrote a blog post collecting some of our favorite audiobooks that parents can download. 

3.  encourage kids to make their own books?

I’ve been making my own books since kindergarten. In the book, I interviewed a number of artists, zine-makers and app creators about how to encourage kids to make their own books.

21st century kids have the most amazing set of storytelling tools at their disposal. From a very young age, they can create digital books with photos, art, audio and video.

Parents can explore these free resources in my Homemade Digital and Print Books post.

Homemade books show kids how to extend the stories they love and express their feelings in constructive ways. Beyond the pride of creation, these kids will master a crucial set of skills for school as well: critical thinking, self-expression and a comfortable relationship with writing. 

4. suggest kids learn hip-hop lyrics?

In "Born Reading," I recommend parents explore "Hip Hop Speaks To Children," an amazing collection of hip-hop and poetry edited by the great poet Nikki Giovanni. It includes work by 42 poets and performers, ranging from Langston Hughes to the Sugarhill Gang to Queen Latifah.

While I wrote this book, Giovanni told me why these classic songs matter: “Hip hop is the vernacular of the people. This is a sound, like jazz, that has gone around the world. It speaks to the legitimate concerns of all people in all languages.” 

5. let kids use reading and game apps?

In “Born Reading,” I shared a long list of age-appropriate app and eBook recommendations for kids two years old and older.

This generation has some amazing resources at their fingertips: apps that can teach the basics of reading, eBooks that bring storybooks to life and creativity tools that can help little kids tell a story, paint a picture or make a movie.

I caution parents to use these devices carefully. We need to make sure these experiences are truly interactive.

Just like the interactive reading I discussed earlier, apps, eBooks and other digital experiences are greatly improved when a caregiver participates alongside the child. I wrote an essay for the Joan Ganz Cooney Center collecting some of the best apps that encourage parents and children to have this kind of truly interactive experience.