Teen Athletes: Getting Ready for In-Season Competition

Contributor – Fitness for Kids and Teens

For the student-athletes out there, being prepared for your athletic season is not something you can do a few weeks before the season starts. Getting stronger, improving your level of play, and being in top athletic condition is not something you can cram for like an exam. It takes time, hard work, and a consistent effort to be at your best.

This means you need to be able to play your sport for a couple hours each day, starting with pre-season practice all the way through until your season ends. The goal is to play at peak performance, injury free, plus handle a full academic course load, family, friends, and other interests. All of this requires an exceptional level of physical readiness and needs to be addressed year round.

This article is specifically geared towards getting conditioned for your sport, but first, let’s look at what I refer to as the five main components of physical fitness. The following components should be focused on all year long to ensure you are in peak physical condition when your season starts:

Components of Physical Fitness

  1. Muscular and Bone Strength: The amount of tension that can be created by a muscle when it contracts, or in the case of bones, tendons, and ligaments, it is the amount of tension that can be withstood before an injury occurs. This means that a safe, efficient, and effective strength training program should be adhered to two to three times each week and should be performed with a high level of effort.
  2. Cardio-Respiratory Endurance: The ability of the heart and lungs to provide oxygen and nutrients to the working muscles during intense exercise in an efficient manner. Many sports are “stop and go” and involve multiple sprints at a variety of distances and speeds. This requires a solid aerobic foundation as well as a strong, healthy body.
  3. Nutrition: Eating nutrient dense foods that will aid in repair of the body’s many cells, as well as fuel an active lifestyle. What you put in your body is what fuels your performance and health, so you need to eat nutritious foods. As the old saying goes “garbage in, garbage out.”
  4. Flexibility: The range of motion around a specific joint as well as the surrounding muscles and connective tissue. Improving flexibility helps prevent injury, increases performance, and helps reduce muscle soreness.
  5. Rest/Recovery: The need for the body and mind to recuperate from hard work. Having “down time” is a factor in helping achieve your goal of a high-level of fitness and should not be taken lightly. It is not, however, a license to just hang around for days doing nothing.

Keep this in mind – the level of fitness that you attain is directly linked to the effort you put into all areas mentioned above. “Hard work is the price we must pay for success.”

Conditioning Guidelines

Prior to pre-season (approximately 12 weeks before reporting to your first practice) you will slowly start your running program. Over the course of several weeks, you will build up your cardiovascular system to withstand long runs, as well as different sprinting distances and times. Do not go out and run every day right from the start. This can cause overuse injuries that can linger and do more harm than good.

Whenever possible, try to run on soft or forgiving surfaces – grass or flat area beach sand are two of the best. If you are going to run on the road, be sure to change your route often to save your shins, knees, hips, and ankles from the repetitive stresses incurred. Make sure you are wearing good running shoes that are appropriate for you.

Phase 1 – 3 Weeks

The purpose of Phase 1 is to get you back to running on a steady basis so you can develop a solid aerobic foundation, get your legs used to running, and work on your running mechanics. This phase also helps your body get used to the pounding before you add more stress to it with sprinting and the twists and turns associated with playing a sport. Through this phase you will develop an efficient heart and lung system, which will increase your endurance and improve your recovery capabilities. You should be able to run at least a 10-minute mile to start, so you should cover about 2 – 2.5 miles at each run.

  • Week 1: Run 2 times on non-consecutive days for approximately 20 minutes.
  • Week 2: Run 3 times on non-consecutive days for approximately 20 minutes.
  • Week 3: Run 3 times on non-consecutive days. Days 1 and 3 run for 20 minutes. Day 2 run for 30 minutes.


  Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
Week 1 20 min run     20 min run      
Week 2 20 min run   20 min run   20 min run    
Week 3 20 min run   30 min run   20 min run    


Phase 2 – 3 Weeks

You should easily be running a 10-minute mile average by now, so the purpose of Phase 2 is to push your aerobic capacity and improve your time/distance with each of your runs. Phase 2 has you working up to running on consecutive days. This will help you get passed the discomfort of running with sore legs and improve your aerobic capacity further.

  • Week 4: Run 3 times on non-consecutive days. Days 1 and 3 run for 30. Day 2 run 20 minutes.
  • Week 5: Run 3 times this week. Days 1 and 2 will be back-to-back run days. Run 30 minutes on day 1 and 20 minutes on day 2. Take 2 days off and run 30 minutes.
  • Week 6: Run 3 times this week. Days 1 and 2 will be back-to-back run days. Run 30 minutes on days 1 and 2. Take 2 days off and run 30 minutes.


  Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
Week 4 30 min run   20 min run   30 min run    
Week 5 30 min run 20 min run     30 min run    
Week 6 30 min run 30 min run     30 min run    


Phase 3 – 3 Weeks

Phase 3 starts the anaerobic/speed training that is needed for your sport. This phase is critical because it develops the specific energy system the body depends on to execute the repetitive movements involved in your activity. As with Phases 1 and 2, you will ease into this segment. Keep in mind that all sprints, regardless of the distance, should be performed as an all-out effort.

  • Week 7: Run 4 times this week. Days 1 and 3 are interval days. Days 2 and 4 are recovery runs. Days 1 and 3 are 30-minute runs with ratios of 1:1. This means you run for 10 minutes as a warm-up, then sprint for 1 minute, jog for 1 minute, sprint for 1 minute, jog for 1 minute, etc. for 20 minutes (10 cycles). Days 2 and 4 are recovery runs and they will be regular runs for 20-30 minutes. Run days 1 and 2 back-to-back, take a day off and run days 3 and 4 back-to-back.
  • Week 8: Run 4 times this week. Days 1 and 3 are interval days. Days 2 and 4 are recovery runs. Days 1 and 3 are 25-minute runs with ratios of 1:2. This means you run for 10 minutes as a warm-up, then sprint for 30 seconds, jog for 1 minute, sprint for 30 seconds, jog for 1 minute, etc. for 15 minutes (10 cycles). Days 2 and 4 are recovery runs and they will be regular runs for 20-30 minutes. Run days 1 and 2 back-to-back, take a day off and run days 3 and 4 back-to-back.
  • Week 9: Run 4 times this week. Days 1 and 3 are interval days and days 2 and 4 are recovery runs. Days 1 and 3 are 20-minute runs with ratios of 1:3. This means you run for 10 minutes as a warm-up, then sprint for 15 seconds, jog for 45 seconds, sprint for 15 seconds, jog for 45 seconds, etc. for 10 minutes (10 cycles). Days 2 and 4 are recovery runs for 20-30 minutes. Run days 1 and 2 back-to-back, take a day off and run days 3 and 4 back-to-back..


  Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
Week 7 Intervals 30 min run   Intervals 30 min run    
Week 8 Intervals 30 min run   Intervals 30 min run    
Week 9 Intervals 30 min run   Intervals 30 min run    


Phase 4 – 3 Weeks

Phase 4 brings you into the home stretch for preparation for your season. This phase is important in that you build the ability to handle a volume of intense work. Keep in mind that all sprints, regardless of the distance, should be performed with an all-out effort. Sprint distances should be performed with “game-time” intensity and conditions since most sports are not of specific time/distance. It is also recommended you wear the proper foot attire that you will be wearing for your sport, so if that means running in specific sneakers or cleats, do so to get used to the difference your running shoes offered.

  • Week 10: Run 5 times this week. Days 1, 3, and 5 are Fartlek interval days (a Swedish term that means “speed play” with intervals performed at random bursts of speed and recovery) and days 2 and 4 are recovery runs. Days 1, 3, and 5 are 20-minute runs with a 10-minute run as a warm-up, then sprinting for random time/distance with as little recovery as needed for 10 minutes. Days 2 and 4 are recovery runs with your “tool of your trade” for 20-30 minutes. This means if you play basketball, dribble your basketball while you run. If you play field hockey, run with your stick. If you play baseball, run with your glove. Get as “game time” ready as you can.
  • Week 11: Run 5 times this week. Days 1, 3, and 5 are Fartlek interval days and days 2 and 4 are recovery runs. Days 1, 3, and 5 are 20-minute runs with a 10-minute run as a warm-up, then sprinting with your sticks for random time/distance with as little recovery as needed for 10 minutes. Days 2 and 4 are recovery runs with your “tool of your trade” for 20-30 minutes.
  • Week 12: This is a back off week that leads into pre-season. Run 3 times this week. Days 1 and 3 are 20-30 minute casual runs and day 2 is a 30-minute run with ratios of 1:1. This means you will run for 10 minutes as a warm-up, then sprint for 1 minute, jog for 1 minute, sprint for 1 minute, jog for 1 minute, etc. for 20 minutes (10 cycles) with your “tool of your trade.”

Raise a Child Who Loves to Read

By Aha Parenting

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Forget Baby Einstein.  The single best way to increase your child’s IQ is to read to her and instill a love of reading.

Does your child read every evening, not because it’s assigned, but just for fun?  Some kids do, and those are the kids who do better academically, at every step of the way.  School performance correlates more directly with children’s reading scores  than any other single indicator.

Most parents buy board books for their babies and say they hope they’ll love reading.  And yet, by middle school, most kids stop reading books that aren’t assigned in school.  Only 28 percent of eighth graders scored at or above the proficiency level in reading in 1994; in fact, only two percent of them read at an advanced level.

What happens?  The habit of reading never really gets ingrained in childhood.  Our kids love leafing through books as toddlers, looking at the pictures.  They may even enjoy reading as elementary schoolers.  But reading is hard work, and life offers so many other ways to entertain themselves that reading always seems more like work than play.  They never get to that delicious place where reading a book is more fun than almost anything.

So how can you coax your child into a lasting love of reading?

1. Read to your child from the earliest age.  And not just at bedtime.  Buy board books and cloth books as some of your child’s first toys. Carry them around with snacks in the diaper bag. Create “cozy time,” a ritual of connection in which you both associate love and cuddling with reading.  Anytime either of you needs a break, grab a book and read to your child. Post tantrum, during lunch, after school, while you have your coffee on Sunday, any time can be cozy time.

2. Begin visiting the library regularly by the time your child is two and she may well prefer reading to any other activity.  Use the time in the library to read to your child as well as to select books.  My kids would never sit still at library “story times,” but if your child likes them, by all means go.  Write down the names of the books you check out if your library can’t give you a printout, so you can keep track of returning them on time.  Keep library books on a separate shelf in the living room or kitchen so you don’t lose them, and so you can always easily find something new to read.  (If you don’t take them out of the house, you won’t lose them.)

Supervising a toddler and perusing bookshelves is always a challenge; it helps if you can develop a list of authors and books so you can find good ones easily.  Librarians usually have a list of favorite books for various ages, and other parents and kids are always a good source of suggestions. Find some series you like and share your child’s excitement when you find another book in the series. (See Recommended Children’s Books).

3. Read to your child as often as possible.  I found that before my children could really participate in meals, reading to them during lunch or an early dinner (when the other parent isn’t yet home from work) entertained them enough to keep them sitting. They were much more likely to try the foods I put in front of them with my company and the diversion of a book, than if I let them sit in the high chair or at the kitchen table while I cooked.  This is very different from putting kids in front of a screen while they eat.  Then, they stare at the screen as they unconsciously put things in their mouth.  Being read to is more like listening to the radio; they can look at their food and savor it as they listen, glancing occasionally at the pictures you hold up.

4. Don’t push your child to learn to read.  He will read naturally once he develops the preliminary skills. Your goal is not to help him sound out words, but to encourage a love of books, both pictures and stories. Teaching him to read will take all the fun out of reading.  If you push him, he’ll feel put on the spot, and he’ll feel dumb.  That feeling will last his whole life, and it won’t endear reading to him.

Some very smart children don’t learn to read until they’re over seven years old.  Don’t worry.  They’ll quickly catch up with those who started at four or five. I know two children who were reading at 3 years old, and at 6 years old, respectively.  They are both now 9, and in the fourth grade.  They both read at about an eighth grade reading level.  The only difference is that the early reader feels insecure about no longer being “special,” and often acts obnoxiously superior to other kids. There is absolutely no benefit to pushing your child to read “early,” and there are many drawbacks. (Should you stop her from teaching herself to read?  Of course not.  I’m just saying not to push it and not to make it your child’s claim to fame, because sooner or later everyone else will catch up.  It’s a bit like whether a child learns to walk at nine months or 16 months.  Who cares?)

5. Don’t stop reading to him once he learns to read.  Read to him every step of the way, for as long as he’ll let you.  Continuing to read to him will keep him interested as his skills develop.  And it gives you lots of fodder for conversations about values and choices.

Parents often complain that their early readers CAN read, but just don’t seem interested in doing so.  Most kids go through this stage, but you can help to keep it a brief one.  The child’s problem, of course, is that he can read simple books, but his imagination craves more developed plots and characters. Those books are agonizing work, with too many words he doesn’t know, and the labor distracts him from the story.  He needs his parents to keep reading to him, to keep him fascinated with the secrets of books and motivated to become a proficient reader.

At this vulnerable stage, it is well worth the extra time to track down books he can read and will find exciting. Picture books with lots of words work well, since he can use the pictures to help him stay interested and figure out the words.  Soon, through his work in school, as well as the books he picks up at home, his reading skills will catch up with his appetite for books.  Within a few months, he’ll be able to handle simple chapter books.  At that point, look for series books, which often lure kids on to the next book and the next.

6.Ritualize daily reading time.  Set up a “cozy reading time” every day. This can be a perfect chill-out time after school, or after lunch in the summer, or a wind-down time at the end of the evening.  It’s amazing how motivated kids are to read if this allows them to stay up a little later.  We negotiated a half hour later bedtime that our first graders were ready for anyway, as long as it was spent in bed reading a book.

Some six year olds are just so tired by the end of the day, however,  that reading is simply too much work for them then.  Until your child is ready for bedtime reading, try setting up her cozy reading time while you make dinner, after homework is done. The only downside to this is that you’ll need to scrape out a half hour to start her off at what is probably your busiest time of the day.

7. Help her tackle the next level  Pick a book she can read, but might not choose on her own  — a simple chapter book, rather than a picture book, for example.   Read together until you have to answer the phone or start dinner, but a minimum of a quarter of the book, so your child is hooked. Then tell her it’s time for her read-alone time. It’s her choice.  Does she want to keep reading the book you’ve just gotten her into, or read something else?  Most kids grab the book and finish it themselves.  (If she doesn’t, you may need to drop back a level to a slightly simpler book.) Keep choosing engrossing, slightly harder books.

8. Help him improve his reading by alternating pages with himduring your read-aloud time.  But if he stumbles, supply the word.  Don’t make him stop and sound things out; your goal is to keep him excited about the book by moving forward with the story.  I recommend this only for limited periods of time – it tires kids out — and I recommend that you not be rigid about enforcing your child’s participation (in other words, have them do every third page, or fourth).  If you take the fun out of reading with him, you’ve done more harm than good.

9. Try smart comics for reluctant readers.  Some kids get a terrific jump start from comics, which are less intimidating to them than chapter books. Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes and the Tin Tin series, for instance, are kid pleasers with sophisticated vocabulary and concepts.

10. Never stop reading to her. I know she can read anything herself now.  But why give up such an important time to connect with each other emotionally?  Why give up the chance to read books that trigger good discussions about values and choices and hardships and hope?   Don’t stop till she fires you.  My fourteen year old can read physics books I can’t fathom, but he still lets me read history or politics to him occasionally.  The best part for both of us is then talking about what we’ve read.

11. Read yourself.  Role model.  If they don’t see you read, why should they?  Discuss what you’re all reading at the dinner table.  Institutionalize family reading time, when a parent reads to the whole family.  As kids get older, they can take over the role of reader, or the book can be passed around the circle.

12. Limit technology.  There is no way a book can compete with TV or computer. Most kids, given the choice, just won’t choose the book often enough to make it a habit.  Before you know it, they’ll have developed other habits for relaxing, and reading will be something other people do. Limiting or banning technology really works.  Research shows it’s totally worth it.  Click here for more on why TV compromises academics.


Kids Don’t Read Books Because Parents Don’t Read Books

By Jordan Shapiro

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There is a cultural narrative about how electronic devices are pulling children away from books. When I meet with other university professors they often tell me that the students don’t read anymore because their eyeballs are glued to their phones. Technophobes think we are raising a generation that doesn’t understand the value of literature.

The polarization of old and new continues. Maybe it is leftover sediment from an anti-screen mindset that was always on the fringes of the golden age of television. It is a trite myth-like story that attempts to cast books as the underdog in battle against thechno-imperialism. Paper is the good guy and Gorilla Glass is the villain.

Common Sense Media’s new report, entitled “Children, Teens, And Reading,” attempts to offer a “big-picture perspective on children’s reading habits in the United States and how they may have changed during the technological revolution of recent decades.” The big scary takeaway:

According to government studies, since 1984, the percent of 13-year-olds who are weekly readers went down from 70% to 53%, and the percent of 17-year-olds who are weekly readers went from 64% to 40%. The percent of 17-year-olds who never or hardly ever read tripled during this period, from 9% to 27%.

These statistics are startling. But I’m not sure what this has to do with technology. The framing doesn’t make much sense to me.

It seems to me that we currently live in a culture that is more heavily text based than any other time in history. People read all day long. Google, Twitter, and Facebook deliver words. People can’t peel their eyes from the smartphone–essentially a text and information distribution mechanism. We actually have trouble NOT reading. Folks are always checking their email and their text messages. Sometimes it is hard to pull away from this matrix of letters.

Still, what are people reading? It seems like they don’t read many books. I’m not talking about kids, but rather adults. Even the technophobes don’t read books.

I’ve met highly educated elite individuals who have told me they just don’t have time to read books. They skim the NY Times book review so they can participate in cocktail party conversations. They buy executive summaries from the back of in-flight magazines. I’m shocked by the number of people who ask me if there are audio versions of my books available.

Is the problem that kids don’t read books, or is the problem that nobody reads books because our culture has become anti-academic and anti-intellectual? We’d prefer to read magazines and blogs that are subtly self-promotional in their incessant questioning the value of the humanities, liberal arts education, and those university degrees that are more dependent on books than algorithms and databases. The popular rhetoric tells us we need more STEM education, more engineers, more entrepreneurs. We’re surrounded by an implicit anti-book agenda, and still we wonder why kids don’t read books.

I’ll admit that I’m biased. I’m an academic. I get paid to read. But my kids (6 and 8) also read a lot on their own. Not only because I require it–30 minutes of reading is a prerequisite to video game time–but also because their dad models good reading behaviors. Dad is always ordering new books; dad is always reading them. In my household, being an adult means feeling comfortable with books. Maturity means having excessive familiarity with long-form written word.

The Common Sense Media report agrees. “Parents can encourage reading,” they explain, “by keeping print books in the home, reading themselves, and setting aside time daily for their children to read.”

Strong correlations exist between these parental actions and the frequency with which children read (scholastic, 2013). For example, among children who are frequent readers, 57% of parents set aside time each day for their child to read, compared to 16% of parents of children who are infrequent readers.

When it comes to books, however, most studies show that the text delivery method is irrelevant. Good reading behavior has nothing to do with technology. E-readers, tablets, laptop screens are all capable of delivering long-form text. Books have nothing to do with paper. In fact, electronic devices only increase access to books. A report from the Joan Ganz Cooney Center released earlier this year explains that “a majority of children ages 2 to 10 have access to a device for electronic reading: 55% have a multipurpose tablet in the home, and 29% have a dedicated e-reader (62% have access to at least one of these devices). Among children with one of these devices in the home, half (49%) engage in electronic reading, either on their own or with their parent (30% of all children).” Books matter; how kids read them doesn’t.

My kids read on the iPad, the e-reader, and paper. I make sure of it. I read to my kids every night. I read with my kids during the day. I do it because I see it as a crucial piece of their education. I can’t just outsource the raising of my children to specialists–and then complain that those teachers are failing. It is obvious to me that parents also need to be involved. They need to make sure their children read books.

Of course, it is easier to frame the story as paper vs. digital. It gives us permission not to engage with our kids. We can blame the video games and apps rather than blaming ourselves. Parents need to take responsibility for raising thoughtful, empathic, open-minded adults. Books are a crucial part of the equation. But even if we eliminated every digital technology from our lives, our kids still won’t read books unless we tell them in no uncertain terms that books are an important part of being an adult.

Teach your kids to read. And teach your kids that it matters what they read. Renaissance Learning’s annual “What Kids Are Reading Report” tells us a lot about what kids are currently reading and it is not all pretty. Their huge study “does not summarize sales or library data. It uses data from 318 million books read by 9.8 million students in the U.S. to determine what the most popular books are in a given year. It is the most extensive report in the U.S. that reflects K12 reading trends.”

Three interesting findings:

1. Gendered reading starts as early as first grade. Elementary-school boys read tons of “Captain Underpants,” but it doesn’t even make it to the girls’ top 20 list. We’re conditioned to read statistics like this as proof that girls and boys have different preferences, tastes, and attitudes. I don’t believe it. Alternatively, we might read this as evidence that we are creating an increasingly gendered world where roles and intellectual expectations are divided according to biological reproductive organs. If this is really what you want, by all means, keep at it. If not, there are plenty of books that are non-gendered; let your kids know that you think more highly of these.

2. Middle schoolers (in particular 6th graders) are reading the most words per student. The average words per student increases through middle school and then starts decreasing again in high school. I see this as evidence that parents are sending the wrong message about books to their children. We value literacy, cheering on small kids to learn to read as quickly as possible. But when these kids become adolescents they attempt to directly emulate their adult role models. If adults don’t read books then trying to act like an adult means not reading books.

3. Books like Twilight and Hunger Games are more popular than literary classics. These days, teachers assign these more often than Shakespeare or Don Quixote. Most of them will tell you that it is because they figure any reading is good reading and books like these increase student engagement. On the one hand, this makes sense. On the other hand, we should remember that popular fiction prioritizes sales over content. They are revenue generators first and literary explorations of the human condition only afterward. This doesn’t necessarily mean popular fiction is bad, but there’s also a reason that certain books have transcended the economic, political, and epistemological trends of particular centuries.

At the end of the day, how our children read and what our children read says a lot more about adult attitudes about books than it does about the kids’. Model the behaviors and attitudes you want your children to emulate.

Jordan Shapiro is author of FREEPLAY: A Video Game Guide to Maximum Euphoric Bliss, and MindShift’s Guide To Games And Learning For information on Jordan’s upcoming books and events click here.


Kids Who Read Are More Likely to Succeed

 — Eight Ways Parents Can Make Reading Palatable and Pleasurable

Hint: Get out your own library card and put on the cocoa

By Patricia Donovan

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Release Date: September 7, 2004

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BUFFALO, N.Y. — Anyone who knows children, knows that you can’t “make” them do something they don’t want to do, and that holds true when it comes to reading, although reading itself is a requirement for academic, economic, social and future parental success.

“Parents can, however, help make reading a palatable, pleasurable activity, one that children ultimately will pursue on their own, to their own tremendous benefit,” says Melanie Kimball, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Information and Library Studies, University at Buffalo School of Informatics.

Kimball, who conducts research on reading and literature for children and youth, as well as library services for young people, points to research showing repeatedly that children who find reading a pleasure have a much easier time understanding and learning math, geography, history and every other academic subject. Non-readers, on the other hand, pay a very high price in terms of academic failure.

“Although some children have learning or behavioral problems, this is not true of all non-reading children.” Kimball says. “It is more likely that no one has encouraged in them the simple enjoyment of reading, which is a very important parental job.”

She notes that the American Library Association estimates that there are 27 million functionally illiterate adults in the United States, many of whom are the parents of young children. “This helps explain why 34 percent of fourth graders in this country can’t read a simple, age-appropriate poem,” she adds.

Kimball stresses that even if they have not been readers, parents still can encourage, teach and help their children to read in a variety of ways. They include:

1. Limit the amount of time a child spends watching television. All television-watching isn’t bad. A 1982 meta-analysis of 23 studies dealing with television viewing and achievement in various academic areas — as well as additional studies in more recent years — found that watching up to 10 hours of television a week is beneficial and correlates positively with reading achievement. Above that amount, however, the correlation is negative; reading achievement declines sharply with increased viewing. When the children do watch television, Kimball says parents would do well to engage in “guided viewing,” helping their children choose programs and discuss those programs with them.

2. Read yourself, read what you like and let your children see you reading. “Children model the behavior of their parents and older siblings.” Kimball notes. “If parents can’t read, they need not feel ashamed, but need to seek the free help available to get them started.” She advises parents who don’t read much or don’t like to read to start perusing materials with which they are comfortable, whether they are comic books, graphic novels, magazines or newspapers. “And they can read in their native language, as well as English,” she says. “The point is to let children see that reading is something their parents’ value as a worthwhile activity.”

3. Read aloud and often to young children who do not yet know how to read for themselves. “Start with picture books for little kids,” Kimball suggests. “Even non-reading parents can do that. Tell them the story, although they will want you to tell each one 40 times. Then let them ‘tell’ you the story. This is an imitation of reading, and is part of the learning process,” she says, “and once they can read, let them read to you. That, too, is part of the process.”

4. Make reading time special. Make it a time to relax before bedtime, or a time during which you sit down with your child over cocoa or a cup of tea — a nice time shared by the two of you. Kimball suggests parents also read to older children, to. Reading to children, she adds, offers the opportunity to introduce new material beyond their reading level. Chapter-by-chapter readings of age-appropriate mysteries, fantasies and adventure stories that provoke anticipation often prove very satisfying to youngsters.

5. Let children pick out their own books and other reading materials. “Let your child get a library card,” she says. “It is likely to be the first official document with his or her name it. Then take them to the library! Librarians are trained to help find the very kind of book a specific child — even a non-reading child — might want to dip into, based on the child’s interests, hobbies, fears, what other children find appealing and what’s going on in their lives.”

6. Be sure there is a place at home to read and a time to do it. “Ideally it would be a comfortable, quiet place with good lighting, indoors or outdoors,” Kimball says. “Enthusiastic readers always will find a place to read, but if you are encouraging a child to read, help him or her find a spot that makes it a little easier. Give the child time to read. Don’t constantly interrupt or tell them they’re reading too much, or too long.”

7. Don’t criticize what your child as chosen to read. Once you’ve made your recommendations and suggestions about what to read, respect a child’s decision. Some children will not like “The Secret Garden,” even if you loved it. Comics, fantasy, science fiction, picture books, mysteries, animal stories, romances, novels and non-fiction material of all kinds will appeal to different children at different ages and times in their lives and can enrich them in different ways. Be patient, Kimball says, even if it seems that your child has been reading nothing but “Spiderman” for three years. Remember that many research scientists developed their interests as children immersed in science fiction.

8. Finally, talk with children about what they read and what they think about it. You will learn a lot about their interests and opinions that you may not learn any other way. If you can get them to write about their reading — in a journal, for instance — that’s even better. Kimball says children who write about what they read tend to become better writers and readers. Their comprehension goes up, and that skill will be applied to all academic subjects.

“Reading opens our minds to new ways of thinking and seeing. It enriches our lives and broadens our experience. It is a tool that all of us need in order to get through life with satisfaction and accomplishment, and it’s fun,” Kimball says.

“Once a child has really found pleasure in reading, he or she will do it on their own, for their own reasons and won’t have to be threatened or cajoled.”

Kimball says that parents who want to steer their child toward quality books might want to look at the reading lists on the ALA Web site at

It includes lists of award-winning book recommendations by librarians and reading specialists. She also recommends the book, “Choosing Books for Children” (University of Illinois Press, 1999) by Betsy Hearne.

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Patricia Donovan
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