Children Are Made Readers…


“Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.” ~ Emilie Buchwald

I ran across this little quote recently. I love it! It really is so true. My husband and I read to the kids every night without fail. I majored in English in college and recognize what great literature can do for our minds. So I knew that when I had kids, I always wanted books to be a big part of our lives. I started reading to William when he was 4 months old. My hands were a little full when Lucas came along (with a 3yo with SPD and a deployed husband), so our nightly reading with him didn’t start until he was 6 months old.

I’m seeing the effects of all this reading pay off. William is a fairly advanced reader, speller, and writer. I attribute his success in this area to all the reading we do. I’ll read fairly advanced books to him while lying next to him in his bed, and he’ll follow along with me, reading over my shoulder. I find this to be so much more beneficial than having him read to himself. As he reads along with me, he can hear how words are correctly pronounced and how the inflection of my voice changes with various punctuation marks and as the book flows from one element to the next.

I remember reading along in a book in a high school English class and learning the pronunciation of the word “facade.” A classmate had read the word, and I was following along, so I learned how it was pronounced. Having read the book to myself at home, I never would have guessed that the word is pronounced as it is.

William is also gaining a great vocabulary from all of our reading. He received the Fablehaven books for Christmas, and at first, I wasn’t sure what to think of them. I was worried they would be too violent or mindless twaddle. But we started reading, and we love it! He likes the story line and the fact that a young boy is one of the main characters. I like the story line as well, but what I love most is the rich vocabulary! I read a sentence the other day that had several multi-syllabic words. It took me a minute to read and process the sentence.

Here’s a sentence from the book that gives you an idea: “But if I lose the protections afforded by the treaty, the consequences of my vulnerability would inevitably follow,” (Fablehaven, p. 278). Try saying that five times fast!

William won’t always ask me what the words mean, and that’s fine. Just exposing him to this rich vocabulary is what’s important to me. After he hears and sees a word for the third or fourth time, it will start to register. And again, me reading it to him is different from him reading it to himself. If he were reading it himself, he might stumble on the words. In fact, I wouldn’t even have him read a book at this level. It’s quite advanced. So since I read to him, he’s “reading” a level that is far above his own reading level.

My husband typically reads picture books to Lucas, and I was just saying to him the other day that I think he’s ready for chapter books. Lucas seems to have caught the reading bug, too. When we read chapter books for school, he has no trouble following along, and sometimes he’s more capable of giving me a narration (describing what happened in our reading) than William. I think I’ll recommend that they start on classic chapter books like Boxcar Children, Indian in the Cupboard, and Cricket in Times SquareMasterpiece by Elizabeth Broach is also a good one.

So if you haven’t started reading to your child on a regular basis, there’s no time like the present! And as you can see, it’s beneficial to read to a child long after he has begun reading to himself. Head to the library and grab a few books that catch your eye and get started. If you’re looking for more great titles, feel free to connect with me on Goodreads. You’ll see all the books that I’ve read and recommend (for myself and the kids).

Don’t rush your child to grow up


On Wednesday, I talked about a NY Times article that discusses the idea of “overparenting.” The article talks about parents doing too much for their kids. Rushing our children like this, the authors say, has harmful effects on the child’s developing sense of self.

I flipped open my Growing Kids God’s Way book tonight and discovered a passage that discusses this idea directly. (I love it when I flip open a book and it gives me exactly the message I need at that moment.)

“All too often, parents rush the process of growing up. Too soon, Dad and Grandpa are signing R.J. up for junior hockey, simply because he was mesmerized by the latest ESPN commercial. … Never mind the fact that R.J. is only four years old and hates the cold. Dad is left coercing, correcting, pleading, and dealing with tears, while R.J. is clearly out of his league,” (Growing Kids God’s Way, p. 178).

It is fantastic when children develop a true passion for a sport or any other extracurricular activity, but when the primary motivation comes from the outside, the child’s sense of self is hindered. The book goes on:

“Maybe you have not rushed your child to the hockey rink lately, but have you rushed him in other behavior activities that are way beyond his intellectual and social readiness or interest? … Think about their readiness to learn. While it is true that the brain grows best when challenged, it is also true that such challenges must be developmentally and age appropriate. Too often, parents push their children into higher learning activities only to discover that their children’s abilities are impaired because they were rushed. … Children in our society are rushed morally, behaviorally, sexually, intellectually, and physically,” (Growing Kids God’s Way, p. 178).

It’s a curious thing, this need of parents to rush their children. We always want the best for them, and we get caught up in this trap that our child has to be better and smarter than every other child. What are some ways to speed the process along? Teach them to read at a year old! Sign them up for competitive chess at age 2! Fill their summers with camps that promise unparalleled enrichment!

Can you detect my sarcasm? Let your child be a child. I remember when my oldest was little. It was easy to get caught up in this competition. He knew all of his letters before he was 2 and he was reading at age 4. But I have since learned that there’s really no point in it at all. Who’s to say that a child who learns his letters at age 2 is going to be smarter than the child who learns them at age 3 or 4? The only thing it tells you for sure is that the parents are motivated to push the child. It really doesn’t say much about the child.

And back when William was little, I heard other parents (parents of children older than mine) say, “What’s the rush?” In my ignorance (or arrogance), I thought, Well, they just don’t understand or care that their child be the best he can be. I have learned so much in my (almost) 8 years as a parent! I’m now the one saying, “What’s the rush?” It’s true, what meaningful advantage will your child have by learning everything a little bit sooner? And do you want to run the risk of burnout by age 6?

Perhaps more to the point, what will your child miss out on by learning academics or being pushed into sports before he is developmentally ready? Most kids are developmentally ready for academics around the age of 5. (There’s a reason schools don’t take them before they’re 5.) When they are 2, they are still figuring out the world. When they are 3, they are learning to play imaginatively (and think critically). Let him develop naturally, and you’ll be sure he doesn’t skip over any critical developmental phases.

In fact, academics will come more easily and naturally when the child is ready. Start early and you’re in for months or years of heartache. Equate it to potty training. If you start before they’re ready, you’ll deal with months and months of accidents and a discouraged mom and child. If you wait until the child shows signs of readiness, you can potty train him in a week. I did!

Okay, I’ll get off my soapbox now. But before I do, I have one request. When you think about starting a new activity (physical, academic, whatever), give some thought as to whether he’s really ready and what might be the harm in waiting a little while longer. Before long, I bet you’ll be the one saying, “What’s the rush?!”

Sustained silent reading

Image by Candid Memories

By Valerie Plowman, Chronicles of a Babywise Mom 

I am a huge proponent of reading. One of my main goals as a parent has always been to teach my children to not only be capable of reading, but love reading. I come from a line of readers, and I believe the person who can and does read opens a whole world of possibilities to himself.

When I came across the idea of Sustained Silent Reading (SSR) in The Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease, I was very excited. It has come to be my number one favorite piece of advice from the book. It is something I do with my children consistently and have seen many great benefits from it.


SSR is essentially reading for pleasure each day. When it comes time for SSR, you choose your reading material–whether it be magazines, a book, the newspaper…whatever it is you feel like reading, you read. You read together so that the children can see you modeling reading, but everyone is silent.


  • SSR provides the opportunity to read for a long enough length of time that reading becomes natural. SSR has been shown to improve reading skills.
  • SSR gives children the opportunity to read for fun. It shows kids that reading can be for pleasure. There are no quizzes and no tests–no pressure. SSR has been shown to improve attitude toward reading.


Here are some tips on implementing SSR in the home:

  1. You can do SSR with a non-reader.
  2. Start with a shorter length of time. 10-15 minutes is a good start. You can then move up from there according to age and ability of child. We do 20-30 minutes a day; however, my seven year old often continues his SSR for another 20-30 minutes.
  3. Allow the child to choose his/her own reading material. Remind the child to gather enough reading material to fill the time. For a child who cannot read independently, she will likely need several picture books (or whatever she chooses) to get through the 10-15 (or more) minutes.
  4. Have a variety of reading material available in the home. Research shows that “the more kinds of reading material in a home the higher the child’s reading scores in school” (page 90), so don’t feel like if your child chooses to read the paper it is worthless time spent reading.
  5. Have SSR at a time of day you can be most consistent with. For my older children (7 and 5), I like to have it after lunch. This is a time of day that is great to relax and take a break.
  6. You read, also. You will come to love this time as much as your children do!
  7. No getting up and changing material once SSR has started. Part of your goal is to have sustained focus on reading, and if the child is getting up and down over and over to change books, it will distract from that goal. That is why you remind them to get enough to last through the time. If they misjudge (and they will at first), tell them to look through their books again.
  8. No talking during SSR.
  9. No reports after SSR is over. This is just for fun. That doesn’t mean you can’t talk about what you read, just no formal testing.


Like I said, we love our SSR. We have now been doing it for about a year and a half.

I love it for me. I love reading, and this is a chance for me to get some uninterrupted reading time each day–something that can be very hard to come by as a mom!

I love it for my children. I see that they love it–they never grumble or complain when it is SSR time. It also gives them a physical break in the middle of the day and allows them to just relax and escape into the world of whatever they are reading.

I have also seen reading skills improve greatly, especially in my full-on reader. My recently-turned-seven year old has gotten faster and faster at reading during the last two months. He has gone from finishing a chapter book in a day or two to finishing it in just over an hour (we have added some more difficult books for him because of his speed). When SSR is over, he always wants to read longer.

I see the efforts of SSR paying off in our home. Give it a try! You will see great benefits, also.

Valerie is a mother to four, including a newborn, and blogs at

Let them interrupt while you read


In general, we try to discourage our children from interrupting. Whether we’re talking to another adult or busily tending to another child, we encourage children to wait. The interrupt rule is a great tool to teach our children to interrupt politely.

But there is one case in which I say interruption is warranted, or even welcomed. That is when we are reading. Too often, we shush our children during a story so the story can be more fluid and so we can just get on with it. But I have learned that it’s beneficial to allow a child to interrupt my reading.

When I allow William to interrupt while I read, he asks all sorts of questions that help him fill in the blanks. It enables him to better comprehend the story. Just tonight, as I was reading Alice in Wonderland (and reading it slowly), he asked several questions:

  • Can the Queen be a mom?
  • What is a Duchess?
  • What does execution mean? (The Queen always shouts “off with her head!”)
  • What is a Griffin?
  • What does mock mean?

I love that he reads over my shoulder as I read because he can see the words that he doesn’t know the meaning of. He can see that it clearly says “mock” and he  doesn’t know what it means. It’s not a matter of him misunderstanding the word or hearing me wrong as I read. The next time he encounters the word, he’ll know what it means, and he’ll also know how to read/pronounce it correctly. (By the way, the Kindle is great for this because if I don’t know what a word means or I can’t find the right words to describe it, I can call up the Kindle’s dictionary, and it gives us a definition right then and there.)

As we were reading tonight, and as he was interrupting, he realized something funny (which I think is so cute). The Mock Turtle was telling his “history” to Alice and the Griffin, and he warned them not to say a word until he was done with his story. Well, Alice didn’t heed that and asked the Mock Turtle all sorts of questions. William thought it was funny that he was interrupting me just like Alice was interrupting the Mock Turtle. Cute.

So whenever you read, allow your child to ask questions to ensure he comprehends the story. And if he doesn’t ask questions, you might even say, “Do you know what a Queen is?” It’s important to know if they are truly listening and attending to the story.

Also make note of where your child is in the process of learning to read. If, like William, your child knows how to read, you might point out long, difficult words to show him what the word looks like as you pronounce it. If, as with Lucas, your child is just beginning to put sounds together, you might point to the letters as you sound them out slowly. I also take the time to point out some sight words. We’ve been learning “is” and “the” recently. But of course, don’t make learning to read the focus of your story time. Allow your child to enjoy the story.