Chapter 1: Why Reading Matters

In school, reading is everywhere!

(Click for the Complete Online Parent Reading Guide)

There’s no way around it. Reading really matters, maybe even more than any other single subject your child will study. Why? Because every other subject she studies requires her to read. In math class, she reads instructions and story problems. In science, she needs to read her textbooks and step-by-step instructions when she’s doing an experiment. Even really fun, hands-on classes such as art and welding come with textbooks and instructions that kids have to read.

Being able to read well is also important to a child’s self-esteem. If you think back to when you were in school, you’ll remember that kids were often called upon to read in front of other students. Students have to participate in oral reading exercises. They have to give reports in front of the rest of the class. They have to read story problems out loud. Speaking in front of the whole class can be nerve-wracking enough. Can you imagine how much harder it must be for a child who has to struggle to read the words in front of her?

Don’t forget the fun stuff!

Reading shows up in extracurricular activities, too. Is your child in a scouting program? If so, you know that she has a handbook to read. Does your child want to be in a school play? She’ll need to be able to read her lines. If she wants to write for the school newspaper, she’ll have lots of reading to do, too. Even being able to participate in sports requires reading. She’ll be faced with rosters, schedules and playbooks — all filled with words.

Reading is everywhere in life, too

Unlike other subjects, reading follows our kids long after they leave school. After all, most of us will never have to worry about identifying a dangling participle or remembering the year the Magna Carta was signed once we graduate, but we all read almost every single day. There are newspapers, catalogs, job applications and work orders that need to be read. Even online, almost every place you turn, there is something new to read, whether it’s a movie review, an enticing new recipe or an article about how to bathe your puppy.

And reading in real life can be just plain fun! There are comic books and sci-fi novels and tabloid stories about Justin Bieber. Kids want to participate in life to its fullest. They want to do what their friends are doing. And reading lets them do just that.

Look to the future

While it’s hard for kids to look 10 or 15 years down the road, as parents, we know the future will be here in the blink of an eye. Reading is important to our children’s futures. A study released in 2012 by the Ann E. Casey Foundation showed that how well a child could read — even as early as the third grade — affected whether or not that child graduated from high school. One out of six kids who struggled with reading, the study said, did not go on to graduate.

Graduating from high school is important. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, kids who graduate from high school can earn, on average, $8,000 more a year than kids who drop out. And kids who go on to graduate from college can earn $24,000 more a year than kids who don’t finish high school!

Let’s make it personal

It’s easy to tell our kids that reading is important. We tell them lots of things are important, such as cleaning their rooms and eating their vegetables. But do they listen? Not always. After all, things like a clean house and healthy meals don’t really matter much to children. So how can you make reading matter to your child? One way is to help her see how reading has everyday benefits for her. What kid doesn’t want to read her friends’ text messages, after all?

In the space below, record your child’s answer to the question, “Why does reading matter to me?” Encourage her to come up with as many answers as possible. If she’s stumped, help her brainstorm a little. Does she like to experiment in the kitchen? If so, “Reading the brownie recipe” might be one of the reasons to write down. Does she covet her brother’s comic book collection? “So I can read a comic book by myself” might be another good answer.

While you’re helping your child come up with reasons, you can brainstorm, too. Think about why you want to help your child reach this all-important goal. Your ideas might include everyday things such as, “I want my child to read well, so I can leave her a ‘to do’ list when I’m not home” or long-term goals such as, “I want my child to read well, so she can go on to college.”

Why reading matters to me …

1.  ________________________________________________

2. _________________________________________________

3. _________________________________________________

Why reading well is important to my child …

1.  _________________________________________________

2. __________________________________________________

3. __________________________________________________

(Click for the Complete Online Parent Reading Guide)


The Anne E. Casey Foundation, “Double Jeopardy,”

National Center for Education Statistics, “Fast Facts,”