“Aw, Mom, do I have to?” (Why Reading at Home Matters)


Do you know that the best thing you can do for your child each day is also the easiest? Get them to read.1 It’s free, it’s fast, and it’s been found to better prepare students for academic success than any other known practice.

Two research studies prove that academic success is directly tied to the amount of time students spend reading outside of school each day.2 These studies investigated how 155 fifth-grade students spent their after-school time. Sadly, these results probably won’t surprise anyone: 90 percent of the students devoted only one percent of their free time to reading and 30 percent to watching television. Fifty percent read for an average of four minutes or less a day, 30 percent read for two minutes a day, and 10 percent read nothing at all.

Now let’s examine how these students scored on reading achievement tests. Those who scored in the 90th percentile read an average of 37 minutes daily outside of school. Students in the 50th percentile read 11 minutes at home, and students scoring in the 10th percentile read an average of one minute daily. What made the difference? The 90th percentile students read 219 hours a year, or 2.25 million more words than their non-reading peers! This creates a huge learning gap between readers and non-readers.

The good news is that reading can easily bridge this gap. So that brings us to the next logical question: Should we force our children to read at home? What if they HATE it? The answer to that hesitation is fairly simple. While it is better to coax and entice children to read before requiring it, required reading is simply more beneficial than no reading at all. When we require children to read, we are sending them the message that reading is an important and meaningful task.

Reading doesn’t have to be a huge chore, though. Here are some tips for making daily reading enjoyable:

1) Read aloud to your child on a regular basis to encourage positive associations with reading.

2) Make sure that you—the adult role model—are seen reading on a daily basis. Even better, read at the same time as your child!

3) Allow your child to select his own material for required reading, even if it doesn’t meet your high standards. The vocabulary in newspapers, magazines and comic books is often as sophisticated as books.

4) Set time parameters, starting short and growing longer with time and age.

5) If your child enjoys television in moderation, let him watch it…but set the television to closed captioning. Of course, T.V. will never be an equal substitute for reading, but research indicates that watching T.V. with closed captions can improve reading skills!3

Do your child a huge favor today. Start a new routine that includes daily time for reading.

Contribute your two cents!  Post a comment and you will be entered to win a School Box gift card.

Post author: Elizabeth Cossick, M.Ed.

Foot Notes:
1 Trelease, J. (2002). Reading more and loving it: Resource handbook. Bellevue, WA: Bureau of Education and  Research.
2 Anderson, R., Fielding, L., & Wilson, P. (1988, Summer). Growth in reading and how children spend their time outside of school. Reading Research Quarterly, 12, 285-303, as cited by Jim Trelease in “Reading More and Loving It.”
3 Rickelman, R. J., Henk, W. A., & Layton, K. (1991, April). Closed-captioned television: A viable technology for the reading teacher. The Reading Teacher 44(8), 598-599. Retrieved December 15, 2004, from Academic Search Premier database.


Filed under Academic Success, Parenting, Reading

7 responses to ““Aw, Mom, do I have to?” (Why Reading at Home Matters)

  1. Dawn Erickson

    I have started a reading incentive with my 3rd grader. Firstly, I have gotten rid of TV for the summer, except for family movie nights. Secondly, for every 30 minutes of reading she will earn a (poker) chip for 15 minutes of TV, or computer time. She is responsible for keeping track of her chips. So if they are lost, so is her TV time. It started off being a chore, but the first day she earned 4 chips. She has been so excited about her progress that she has now earned 10 chips in two days. Her goal is to have so many chips that she’s not concerned about using them a little each day. She hasn’t even complained about not watching TV for the last 5 days. Tips: Be sure to have a timer available at all times. She is responsible for the exact time that she reads and must record it or it doesn’t count. Reading can happen in the car (as long as the timer is with you), in bed at night, while waiting in line, or waiting for dinner at a restaurant.

  2. Michelle Darr

    Parents should begin reading to their children when they are toddlers, even infants! Also, a great place to acquaint your child with, at an early age, is your public library. The public library offers lots of programs for children of all ages. It’s a great place to go and it’s free!

  3. Terri Allison

    I wholeheartedly agree! I always tell my students that if you can read, you can do anything – the sky is the limit!! I appreciate you putting something out there that speaks to the parents and enforces what we as teachers have been saying for years – That reading at home is very beneficial for success. Another wonderful thing for parents to do is to introduce their children to the Public Library. I always introduce my students to the public library and I have seen several of my students this summer at the library – it is wonderful!

  4. Tara Wolfe

    My husband started reading to our son when he was born. He was in the NICU for 35 days, and every evening we would read him a book. He is now 5 and loves to read. We signed him up for a reading program which allowed him to receive 1 free book a month. He would get so excited when he saw he had mail with his name on it. We also encourage him to read to his pets. His animals are so happy to sit and listen, it makes him want to keep reading.

  5. Don’t forget the power of picture books! Not all picture books were written for young children, and even many that WERE have deeper meanings that older children can infer. Plus, the illustrations give variety to reading and spice it up a bit!

  6. Loretta Rosinko

    Even at 8, 10, and 12, my kids have one hour of quiet time every day to read. We link sleepovers and playdates at the pool to finishing a book. So, every week my ‘tween gets a slumber party w/ her friends when she finishes a chapter book before Friday! It works like a charm!

  7. Kenli Holbrook

    Be sure to have your child read aloud to you sometimes to practice oral fluency!