Paul Kropp: How to Make Your Child a Reader for Life (review)

Few things are more important to me than to make sure that my children becomes readers. Not only because of the obvious – I love to read, it would be amazing if they grew up to become readers and we could talk books. No, the main reason is that if you become a good reader, then you can (almost) have your pick of educations and that means, you can choose the future you want. I want that for them. So that’s my reason for reading this book. I want hints and suggestions to how you succeed in getting your children to read and to keep them reading.

I have a 4-year old and a 2-year old and their father and I already do a lot of things to get them to read. We read to them at bed time, sometimes during the day as well. We read ourselves and they see us read and there are a lot of books in the house, both in their rooms and in the living room. We take them to the library a lot and we talk about books. So we have the basics down. But is this enough or do we need to do more?

Why yes, we do. Or at least, we need to continue doing what we do for a long time. Kropp stresses the importance of the parent through the entire childhood: /…/ your attitude toward reading is the strongest predictor of whether your child will be a reader or not. (p.24) It’s important to read to your child and help them with early reading – but it’s also important that you keep talking to them about their reading, make sure that there’s quiet time so your child – or the entire family – can sit down and read. It’s also important to buy or borrow books and to serve as a model of adult reading. He thinks families should always read together – and that we should think of reading as sharing. As bloggers, that’s rather easy to get on board with!

He has three rules, the three Rs, that will make you and your child go far when it comes to reading: Read with your child every day. Reach into your wallet to buy books for your child and yourself. And Rule the media. Turn it off to make time for reading. (p. 6).

He also identifies three danger zones where kids have a tendency to stop reading: When they enter kindergarden, around grade four and when they enter high school – and gives suggestions to handle these so your child will come through it with flying colors and continue reading. Basically, just keep reading with your child, buy reading materials and make time for reading! Chapters are also dedicated to the reluctant reader and how to nurture the gifted reader.

One thing that makes the book really useful is, that he dedicates chapters to various ages and then focuses on what is specific for that age group and how you handle your child’s reading at that stage – as well as give suggestions to books appropriate for this age group. Of course these suggestions will be more helpful for English speaking parents than for me.

Naturally he spends a lot of sentences on why reading is important and what you gain from it – but that’s just preaching to the choir! I do sit back with a sort of awe that children are able to learn how to read – and do so rather easily (most of them, at least) when you think of how much is involved in reading. Not only learning the letters, but learning that the letters make words that have meaning. Or that a book in the English language – and Danish! – is read from front to back and the words is read from left to right, pages from top to bottom. It’s a lot more complicated than it seems when you have done it for many, many years.

I do like that he stresses that you can’t read favorite books too much. I read my favorite books over and over as a child, and as a parent, you just have to suck it up and read the same books again and again if your child so wishes. According to Kropp, these will be the first books that your child will read for itself.

He also recommends that school work should take place at the kitchen table – or anyplace where there’s an adult close by at all times so the child can easily ask questions and get help. Again – this makes it more of a social experience.

Overall, I think this is a very important book. However, it has some flaws. I know it’s written to an English speaking audience, but he almost makes it seem that if you don’t read English language books to your child, it will be worse off and feels it necessary to point out that if English isn’t your first language, you can read books in your own first language … Duh! Of course, I’m not going to read English language books to my Danish speaking daughter! That’s kind of a no-brainer!

I think it’s a very positive thing that he says that no child has been hurt by reading bad books or junk – schlock, as he calls it – as long as it’s not the child’s entire reading diet. That said, he seems to be on some sort of vendetta against an author like Stephen King. Now, I have to admit King is one of my favorite authors but I think this labeling him a schlock author is wrong. He might have been back in the days, but he’s definitely not any more. Just had to get that out there…! Vack to business! With my daughter loving to read Disney princess books, I’m glad that he says it won’t hurt her as long as we read other books as well (or – at least won’t hurt her reading skills!). Kropp just recommends to encourage variety.

The final issue with this book is that it’s old-fashioned. The 2000 edition I read, has a chapter added about computers – but still. In the text, you’ll find Kropp advising to not let your teenagers have their own phone line or television set and to buy a computer even though they cost a thousand dollars … Well, every home has computers now and every child has a cell phone… Too late to stop that! He also lists how adults pick books and mentions things like reading about it in a paper, seeing in a bookstore, conversations with friends – but fails to mention the internet (blogs, goodreads etc), podcasts and the like. He never mentions e-books… But if you can look past these things, you should, because the rest of the book is informative and enlightening and the advice is sound.

The focus in the book is that reading is an attitude – not a skill. The skills will come if the attitude is there. It’s important to keep it fun and keeping it social by reading together with your child. Reading together with your child and letting your child see you reading also means, that reading gets value in the child’s eyes – so those of us who have children now have an excuse to read even more: We read to make sure our children read as well. Lovely!

  • Title: How to Make Your Child a Reader for Life
  • Author: Paul Kropp
  • Publisher: Random House
  • Year: 2000 (1993)
  • Pages: 318 pages
  • Source: Own copy
  • Stars: 4 stars out of 5

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