I’ve spoken before about how much I enjoy reading parenting books that teach what I already know-I love being preached to, as a member of the choir! I get a smug sense of satisfaction, sort of like sitting through a class that you already know the lesson of. Regardless, I like to read these books anyway, because as a bookworm, How to Raise a Reader seems like something I just HAVE to read, even if I can already anticipate most of what’s being said. Plus, the authors Pamela Paul and Maria Russo are well-respected book reviewers and they include an extensive list of recommended children’s books at the back of this one, so for those suggestions alone I knew it would be worthwhile.
About a year ago I read a similar book called The Enchanted Hour which was all about why reading aloud is important. Again, I knew it was important, but it was nice to learn about all the ways reading aloud can improves one’s life, family and relationships. How to Raise a Reader is more of a how-to manual, split into ages about encouraging your child to read. It too mentions how important is it to read aloud to your kids even after they can read on their own, but it’s more about shaping your child into a reader, and what you should (and shouldn’t do!) at each stage of their reading to help them discover the beauty of books. The baby section I breezed past because I’m already through that stage with my kids, but I still read it because I 1) always read every part of a book, I hate skipping over stuff and 2) thought I may learn some useful advice to pass along to my friends who have their babies. Although each section did have a few useful tips, I was already doing most of them. The advice surrounding the teenage years however I found enormously helpful, as the best route there seems to be gently suggesting books to them by leaving a few in their room every once in a while, and just trying to discuss what you’re reading with them as opposed to drilling them about books, forcing your own teenage preferences, etc.
I remember a few years ago I was speaking to a co-worker who had preteen kids, and she mentioned that she read the books they wanted to read first to check it for content, making sure it wasn’t too violent, sexual, etc. I was silently horrified that she did this, and a section of this book devotes some attention to that topic too (agreeing with my stance, another reason to be smug!). Personally, I think that would be a huge waste of time, as I don’t have any desire to read some weird YA books my kids will inevitably become obsessed with. Secondly, if my kid is able to read at a grade level above her actual age, I think she deserves to read these older books as a reward. The thing is, kids are exposed to crazy stuff nowadays through the internet, and I’d rather my children be exposed to these adult topics through written words than having it flash up on a screen at their friends house, which will inevitably happen too I’m sure. If I notice she’s reading adult books as a teen or preteen, that’s an opening for a conversation, rather than a reason to punish, or fear for her. Of course I’ve also been a parent long enough to realize the best laid plans rarely come to fruition so this may change, but I’ll head into this stage of my kids reading with an open mind.
Over half of the 200 pages of this book are recommendations; sorted by reading level (picture books, middle grade, YA) and topic. The title and author is given alongside a very brief one or two sentence description of what the book is about, which was just enough to entice but not bore. Clearly, as book reviewers, these authors knew what they were best suited to write about! Those who know me in real life (IRL) know that I give away my books as soon as I’m done reading them, because I never re-read but I’m going to make an exception with this book because these lists are just too valuable to give away, I’m planning on referring to them again and again as my kids age into new reading levels and interests.
Reading a book like this isn’t as useful for a person like me, (even if I enjoy it) but for parents who don’t feel as comfortable around books, or are trying to build up their library, this is a must-read. It’s a sad fact that many kids are growing up without a single book in their homes, but this is why access to libraries are a human right. For those parents who can’t go out and purchase new books regularly, take this book out from the library and track what you want to take out in the future, it’s worth the effort. And for those who are able to purchase it, please do! Your children will thank you for it. Plus, the book is beautiful, its a hardcover with full-colour illustrations inside, so it’s a nice edition to add to your bookshelf and pass down to your children if they become parents too.