Novelist Says Parents, Not Teachers, Need to Encourage Kids To Read

While an old saying states that 'charity begins at home', the same could be said for reading. Many advocate starting children reading at an early age; this view, of course, places the responsibility squarely on the shoulders of parents. Is that where this responsibility belongs, or is it up to schools to get kids to love and appreciate reading? One bestselling author strongly suggests the former.

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Parents Play a Pivotal Role

'Sorry, moms and dads, but it's your job - not the schools' - to find books to get your kids reading and to make sure they read them.'

So says James Patterson in a recent article. Patterson, the award-winning author best known for his series of thrillers featuring forensic psychologist Alex Cross, puts the onus on parents to gets kids away from the TV, the video games and the computer screen and discover the world of books.

He speaks of allowing children to have 'freedom of choice' and says parents must encourage their kids no matter what they choose to read (anything from comics to Great Expectations) or how they choose to read it (traditional formats or e-readers). He also stresses that parents must be 'reading role models' and that it's important for kids to observe their mothers and fathers reading even if it's only the newspaper.

The author makes his argument more convincing by relating a personal story involving his son Jack and the summer Patterson and his wife allowed the boy to read rather than mow the lawn: by that season's end, the then-eight-year-old had not only read six books, he had enjoyed them. And 'his reading skills had improved dramatically.'

No Stranger to the Written Word

Patterson himself is a publishing phenomenon.

More than 220 million copies of his books have sold around the world. For the past five years, 'one in 17 hardcover books sold was a Patterson title,' according to the author's website. He has had five hardcover novels debut at #1 on The New York Times bestseller list in one year, a feat unmatched by any other author.

He and his novels have won or been nominated for numerous awards, including the Edgar award, International Thriller of the Year award, Reader's Digest Reader's Choice Award and Children's Choice Book Award 'Author of the Year'. He has also been named to the Celebrity 100 list compiled by Forbes magazine.

Doing His Part

To his credit, Patterson is not simply 'talking the talk', he 's also 'walking the walk.'

He created the website in 2008. The site is essentially designed as a guide for parents and provides lists of recommended titles for kids to read. Books are offered in categories such as 'Transitional Books', 'Pageturners' and 'Great Advanced Reads' that target children from toddlers to those age 10 and up.

In his article, Patterson cites other resources in addition to his website. The Kids Reading List on, and also list books for young readers, and organizations such as the American Library Association and the Young Adult Library Services Association offer reading lists.

Support for Parental Involvement

Patterson is not alone in his belief that parents need to take an active role - if not the first step - in getting kids to read. His view is shared by many psychologists, educators, literacy organizations and educational associations.

A July 2011 article in Psychology Today urged parents to get their kids reading before they even enter preschool. has spoken of the importance of reading to toddlers to help them build vocabulary and understand language. provides tips to help parents get their kids reading, including 'coupons' to give as rewards when kids utilize their reading skills.

The U.S. Department of Education, the National PTA, Reading is Fundamental and Reading Rockets (the multimedia literacy initiative of WETA, Washington, DC's public television station) are among other organizations that speak out and provide information about how parents can get their kids involved in reading.

With all the resources and support they need at their fingertips, there appears to be no reason why parents aren't developing a child's love for reading as early as possible, even long before they go to school. Consider: some studies have shown the benefits of reading to a child while he or she is still in the womb!

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