Is There Something I Could Buy That Would Help My Child to Read Better?

What can parents buy to help a child do better at school? Jim Trelease, author of The Read-Aloud Handbook, suggests the three B's.

Since parents often think there are quick fixes they can buy, some kind of kit or phonics game to help a child do better at school, years ago I began asking my associates, "What did you have in your home as a child that helped you become a reader? Things your folks had to buy." Besides the library card they all named, which is free, their responses form what I call the "Three B's," an inexpensive "reading kit" that nearly all parents can afford.

The first B is Books

Ownership of a book, with the child's name inscribed inside, a book that doesn't have to be returned to the library or even shared with siblings – this is key. I still have the first book I ever bought, the first I ever won, and one of the first I ever received as a gift. In a study of Israeli kindergarten children, high achieving readers owned ten times as many books as did low achievers.

The second B is Book Basket

Place a book basket or magazine rack where it can be used most often. There is probably more reading done in the bathrooms of American than all the libraries and classrooms combined. Put a book basket in there, stocked with books, magazines, and newspapers.

Put another book basket on or near the kitchen table. All those newspaper coin boxes aren't standing in front of fast-food restaurants as decorations. If you sit in your car in the parking lot and watch who uses those coin boxes, invariably it's the person who's eating alone. I'm convinced most human beings want or need to read when they're eating alone. And with more and more children eating at least one daily meal alone, the kitchen is a prime spot for recreational reading. If there's a book on the table, they'll read it – unless, of course, you're foolish enough to have a television in your kitchen, as do 58 percent of parents in America.

And the third B is Bed Lamp

Does your child have a bed lamp or reading light? If not, and you wish to raise a reader, the first order of business is to go out and buy one. Buy the lamp, install it, and say to your child: "Elizabeth, we think you're old enough now to stay up later at night and read in bed like Mom and Dad. So we bought this little lamp and we're going to leave it on an extra fifteen minutes (or longer, depending on the age of the child) if you want to read in bed. On the other hand, if you don't want to read – that's okay, too. We'll just turn off the light at the same old time." Most children will do anything in order to stay up later – even read.


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Excerpted from "The Read-Aloud Handbook"(5th ed., Penguin) by permission of the author Jim Trelease, copyright 2001, p. 43.

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"Books to the ceiling, Books to the sky, My pile of books is a mile high. How I love them! How I need them! I’ll have a long beard by the time I read them." —

Arnold Lobel