How to Raise a Reader by Pamela Paul and Maria Russo

How to Raise a Reader focuses less on the “Why” and more on the “How” of fostering a love of literature in your own children.

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How to Raise a Reader by Pamela Paul and Maria Russo. Workman, 2019, 197 pages.

Recommended for: Adults, especially parents


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As readership declines across all ages, the number of books about reading seems to be growing: see The Read-Aloud Family, Booked, and The Enchanted Hour, for starters. Book-loving authors may be manning the barricades to prevent more losses to Snapchat and video games, but they’re not alone. Most conscientious parents want their kids to be readers, for many reasons—not least because reading is the key to success in academics and beyond. The best approach to reading is probably to value it for its own sake and not, primarily, what it can do for you. That’s the philosophy behind How to Raise a Reader: “Your job as a parent is to make this a pleasure.” Fortunately, though, the authors back up their philosophy with plenty of concrete suggestions.

After the introduction, each chapter addresses a different age level, from babyhood to young adulthood, including descriptions of what reading may look like and how children’s interests develop, how to find excellence in age-appropriate literature and what to be wary of (Yay! Most of their “wary” buttons are the same as ours).  Each chapter includes practical tips on developing a taste for books, and ends with a list of recommended titles.

Two things I appreciated: rather than ignoring classics that may have some racially insensitive content, the authors recommend omitting or editing those parts when reading aloud.  Children dreading independently should learn to recognize and discuss how attitudes have changed. Also, the authors frown on rewarding kids for finishing a book or reading a certain number of pages. Rather than giving rewards for reading, treat reading as a reward—say, an extra half-hour at bedtime to stay up and read.

Consideration:

  • The authors edit the children’s section of the New York Times Book Review, and presumably share the more progressive attitudes of that newspaper. Some of the children’s books they recommend may not be compatible with a Christian worldview. But we’ve read or reviewed many of them at Redeemed Reader, so if you have questions, just ask!

Don’t miss Betsy’s roundup of “4 Books for the Reading Life.” And here are further thoughts on “How NOT to Teach Reading.” On the issue of racially-insensitive material in classic children’s books, see our posts on “Historical Racism in Children’s Books” and “Toward a Positive Multiculturalism.”

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