Why I do what I do

By Megan Cox

At my nine-year-old’s last school holiday party, I talked about books with parents. You see, most of them know me as a small-time writer, and therefore, I must be a book expert, right? Hah. But, because the third grade was having a holiday book exchange, most of the parents expressed frustration in finding any worthwhile book.

On the other hand, my daughter and I lingered in the bookstore  discussing the pros and cons of a great number of novels, finally landing on one that was the right level, very exciting, and of co-ed interest (Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins of the Hunger Games fame).

My kids at the library.

Actually, a few years ago, I probably wouldn’t have been able to name most of the popular middle-grade or chapter book series. I was well-read in young adult (teen) fiction, as that was my interest.

That has changed. Enter…the nine-year-old.

Her passion for books has ballooned as her reading level continues to climb. Book person that I am, a Saturday outing for us (including her younger brother by two years and sometimes Dad) often ends up at our local Barnes and Noble. If you’ve never taken your child to one, or any bookstore, you might be quite awed by the way children interact with books. Put shiny new pages with a pretty cover in one’s hand, something that promises adventure, friendship, new intel, or a combination of any of these, and you’ll find that your kid gets a dose of reading magic (that’s what I call the ever-present need to pick up a book and fall headlong into a story).

You don’t have to buy every book your child is going to read. But as the proud mom of the kiddo who read over 1.5 million words in her second grade year, and a mom who has never been able to quit the reading habit herself, let me give you my rules for stirring the pot of reading magic:

  1. Kids need to walk through bookstores and libraries on a weekly basis. Or, at the very least, once a month.
  2. You should read a book with your child at least once a quarter. There is nothing like sharing a book with someone else.
  3. Read to your child! As long as you can. Even if they read on their own, pick a story the whole family wants to dive into. If you have good readers, take turns. The skills from reading aloud will travel long and far with your child. Those skills go beyond reading.
  4. Let your child pick their reading material. Obviously, it needs to be appropriate. If you are handy with the AR site, you can check books for MG or UG (upper grade may definitely have material in it you don’t want them reading before high school). But Scholastic polls show that children are more likely to read what they pick.
  5. Read yourself. Step away from the Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime or whatever streaming account has you hooked up like a ICU patient. Give the video games and phone games a rest. Explore genres and find what you like. Doesn’t have to be literary. Doesn’t have to be fiction! It just has to be the type of thing to which you want to return.

So what am I going to do for you? I spend a lot of time in bookstores. I spend a great deal of time discussing books with my kids and my friends, and I spend LOTS of time reading. That means I can discuss books–books I’ve read, books my kids will read, books that are stand outs. Books, books, books. I’ll categorize them, be down-to-earth about them (but no malicious reviews–that’s not me).

Why do you care? Here’s what you’re kid will get out of it, once you do your part to get them hooked on reading:

  • Better empathy.
  • Better conversations with adults.
  • Creative thinking.
  • Improved grades.
  • Critical thinking.
  • Social aptitude.
  • Relaxation (in a high-anxiety world).

So why the heck not?

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