By Jenni Buchanan, Reading Rainbow Mom
Today I’m going to encourage you to do something a little unusual. Today I’d like you to let your kids “catch” you in the furtive and secret act of… READING!
As an avid reader and the Reading Rainbow Mom, I love ALL the book-themed holidays, but I especially love “Get Caught Reading” day, because getting “caught” implies that reading is more than a chore, more than an activity that you do because it’s good for you (like eating your vegetables). Getting “caught” implies that reading is something you must do, regardless of the consequences; that reading is something so important you would do it even if you had to do it in secret! It is essential to instill this idea of reading as an irresistible impulse in our kids, and it’s something only we as parents can effectively model.
You may have heard about parents “modeling behavioral expectations” for their children. This is the fancy way of saying that kids pick up the habits of their parents. What you may not know is that parental modeling is more than just nurturing good habits through repetition. Modeling “Do as I do,” rather than “Do as I say” actually impacts our kids on a neurological level.
Research has shown that we all have specialized cells in our brains called “mirror neurons.” This means that when we watch someone perform an action, the mirror neurons in our brain become active as if we ourselves were engaging in the behavior we’re observing. Observation of a behavior, to an extent, forges the same neural connections made from practicing that behavior.
Watching you read effectively helps your kids’ brains form their own habit of reading!
If they’re lucky our kids are being given the message from many different sources that reading is good. Teachers encourage reading through class time or book assignments, librarians will help your child find just the right book to suit their interest, perhaps their friends are reading great books and talking about them. But nothing compares to the influence parents have to turn a child into a reader, in so many different ways, including…
- Filling the house with books and reading material, whether purchased or borrowed.
- Reading to your kids early. Experts say as early as just a few weeks old!
- Regular time to read-aloud; at bedtime, over breakfast, whenever fits into your schedule.
- Showing an interest in a child’s reading material and asking questions.
But most of all…
- Modeling a love of books by getting caught reading on a regular basis!
What does this mean? It means that in addition to all the wonderful things you and local educators are already doing to increase your child’s literacy skills, you should also let your kids “catch” you reading… A lot! In fact, the more often your kids catch you reading, the stronger their own reading habit will become.
The best thing about letting your kids see you with a book in hand is that we already know reading has numerous benefits for adults: Stress relief, lower rate of mental decline later in life, increased empathy, promotes healthy sleeping habits, and it’s just plain FUN!
So get out there, pick up a book, get cozy in your favorite chair or out on the patio or while waiting in the car at soccer practice, and get caught reading! And if you start to feel that you shouldn’t be reading while there’s finances to analyze or laundry to be done, remind yourself that with YOUR reading, you are solidifying in your kids a habit of THEIR reading. Get caught reading today–it’s your joyful parental duty!
About Reading Rainbow: For 30 years, Reading Rainbow has been inspiring children to read, first with the award-winning PBS TV show and now with Skybrary, a digital library of quality children’s books and video field trips, available online or on select devices, with subscriptions available for families or for schools.
As the Reading Rainbow Mom, Jenni Buchanan enjoys encouraging readers of ALL ages to believe that they can “go anywhere, be anything.” See more of Jenni’s blogs and tips for parents about children’s reading on the Reading Rainbow Blog, or follow her on Twitter at @JenniBuchanan.