As parents, grandparents, and caretakers we often wonder what role we can play in ensuring our children have the tools they need to succeed in both school and in life. While there is no magic recipe, a key ingredient is reading. When children discover the joy and magic of reading, they are learning from the stories and characters who help us navigate difficult moments in life, to keep us laughing even when times feel hard or sad. Reading builds resilience, comforts us, and inspires joy.
By ensuring our kids have access to books at home and by creating opportunities to read together, we carve an important pathway to reading that is exciting because it promotes imagination and fosters a love of books.
In my own life as a child, reading was a deep comfort, escape, and freedom. I wandered the world with characters and I lived lives I had never imagined before. I lost myself in the world of stories. I lived in worlds within worlds. In one day I could be a horse racing jockey, a girl among many sisters, a rebel, or a child detective. The hours of those days passed quickly and my mind was full of the stories of characters who have stayed with me forever. I want that experience for every child. I want reading to feel as liberating for them as it was for me: a solace and a pleasure.
The Scholastic Kids & Family Reading Report™ shows that children’s frequency of reading books for fun begins to drop around third grade: only 35% of nine-year-olds report reading 5–7 days a week, compared to 57% of eight-year-olds. Just as striking, the percentage of kids who think reading books for fun is extremely or very important drops between ages eight and nine from 65% to 57%. The “Decline by Nine” is real and worrisome. This means that both in and out of school, children are missing out on the magical reading moments that are transformative. These are the moments that can turn third- and fourth-graders from sometimes readers into lifelong readers.
I want to invite all of us to make a pledge to read together with our loved ones 365 days a year—we can call it a “reading 365 pledge.” With this, we are showing our children that every day is a great day for reading, and that we are continuously going to make time for it, whether by listening to your child read aloud to you as you prepare a meal, sitting side-by-side on the couch browsing through picture books, or reading independently next to each other.
I am deeply passionate about this because through my years of teaching and working with educators, as well as raising my own two daughters, I’ve seen firsthand how life-changing reading every day can be, emotionally and academically. Here’s why you should make it an essential part of life:
1. Reading provides emotional security. Books are a safe space for kids to explore, learn, and grow. In fact, more than half of kids say that a book has helped them get through a difficult time. There are ways we can encourage this type of learning in our own homes. For instance, creating a “reading nook” helps build a peaceful and safe environment for the reading experience. This will show that you believe in the power of reading as a reflective and mindful part of life, so much so that it is a part of your living space, and can be enjoyed by your whole family.
2. Reading helps kids learn about themselves and their world. Whether done independently or with siblings and friends, reading is an opportunity for kids to realize their personal strengths and skills, as well as how to interact with the world around them. Belonging, friendship, kindness, curiosity, confidence, courage, and hope—these are all strengths kids can find in themselves through the stories they read. Helping kids discover the power they possess is important for cultivating the resilience needed for tackling challenges they may encounter throughout life.
3. Reading builds stamina. The majority of kids agree their favorite books are the ones that they have picked out themselves. By encouraging them to read books of their choice, you are empowering kids while providing a natural way to practice speed and fluency, which is important for learning. As frequently as possible, refresh your child’s reading choices by visiting the local library, downloading reading apps that offer browsing power, and replenishing the books in your home library. Remember not to judge what kids choose to read—let them be as immersed in comics as they are in chapter books, cartoons, nonfiction biographies, magazines, picture books, and more. Once they’ve found something they love, encourage them to not only read, but to reread. Super readers are always rereading books for fun.
4. Reading brings families together. Create fun family rituals, such as reading aloud together after dinner, at the laundromat, or before bed time. Parents and children report that they love read-aloud time because it is a special time with each other, so make sure to keep stacks of books throughout your home so they are easily accessible at any time. This will encourage spontaneous read-aloud moments that build unity and togetherness for a lifetime.
Years later, the characters I grew up with still sit inside my heart. They helped me see I could be a writer, showed me how to solve puzzles, and gave me courage. The pages I turned have never left me. Let’s take the reading 365 pledge and give our children the same opportunity to turn the pages into worlds of inspiration.