Raising a reader

Studies show literacy gives kids a chance at a healthy, happy life.

Credit: Flickr / Robert S. Donovan

Studies show literacy gives kids a chance at a healthy, happy life. And the family that reads together has a real leg up

My eight-year-old daughter Maia is a big reader. She takes after both her parents. As a family, you’ll often find all of us, noses in our books, occasionally reading out interesting passages one another.

Our collective idea of a good time in a new city is to hunt out the used bookstores. Sidney, on Vancouver Island, is a favourite destination for this very reason.

When Maia’s teacher recently asked her class to pledge to read a certain number of minutes a day for a three-week long read-a-thon, Maia wanted to make a daily pledge that was in the multi-hours. We got her to tone it down, a little, suggesting she also needed time to sleep and play. When Maia asked us why her class even needed to have a read-a-thon I told her that not every kid is as hooked on reading as she is and that some kids find reading so tricky they don’t even want to curl up with a book for fun.

Literacy rates have been on the increase in Canada, which is a good thing. According to studies by ABC Canada, “there’s a strong correlation between low literacy levels and poor health, higher than average rates of unemployment, low income, poor academic achievement by children of parents with low literacy, poor social integration and low self-esteem.”

It turns out that one of the most powerful tools for increasing literacy are preventative programs aimed at families. Reading programs like TD’s Book Week, Family Literacy Day (January 27) and the Grade One Book Give Away (this year’s book is Let’s Go: The Story of Getting from There to Here, illustrated by Vancouver’s own Scot Ritchie) narrow the literacy gap and to raise overall literacy levels among Canadians.

I didn’t explain all of this to Maia though. I simply said that by making reading a fun challenge maybe some kids, who didn’t read much, would end up getting hooked on reading, too. And Maia, who loves to read not because it might increase her chances of getting a good job and leading a productive life, was excited for those kids.

“They’re so lucky! I don’t remember the moment when I started to love reading, but they’ll get to remember it forever.”