Raising A Reader

Harry Potter
Read any good children's books lately?

Educators say parents who read to their children - and encourage them to read on their own - can make the difference between academic success and failure.

A reading test given to the nation's fourth-graders last year found that two-thirds fell below the proficiency level set by the government. More than one-third lacked basic reading skills. And there's a widening gap between the nation's best and worst students.

So, what can parents do?

Judsen Culbreth, vice president and editor-in-chief of Scholastic Parent Publishing, visits The Saturday Early Show with some ideas for raising a reader. She's in charge of two magazines for parents and educators: "Parent & Child" and "Early Childhood Today," which have a combined readership of more than four million. She also manages Scholastic's development of Internet programs

Her tips for raising a reader:

  • Make spoken language the key to literacy. Engage your child in conversation early and often. Language is the key to literacy. As adults, we view conversation as a luxury, but for kids, it's essential for their developing minds. It's never too early to start talking to your child, who will be mesmerized and soothed by your voice. For infants and toddlers, songs and rhymes spark their awareness of language and sounds.
  • Try storytelling to help your child think creatively and practice using new words. Read different kinds of books to your child and have the child re-tell the story to you, in his words.
  • Choose books that are relevant to your child's life, with story lines he can relate to. Talk about feelings that stories evoke within us. Evaluate characters and events and how they make us feel.
  • Choose age-appropriate books and make sure your child has easy access to a well-rounded selection. Keep books readily available - in the child's bedroom, the kitchen, the living room, the bathroom and the car.
It's important to pick books that are appropriate for your child's age. Here are some examples:


  • Board books and pop-up books like "Clifford's Schoolhouse" by Norman Bridwell and "I Spy Little Letters" by Jean Marzollo
  • Rhyming books like "How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight?" by Jane Yoken and "Cows Can't Fly" by David Milgrim
  • Picture books like "Jubal's Wish" by Audrey Wood or "Dr. Pompo's Nose" by Saxton Freymann and Joost Elffers
  • Concept books like "Into the A, B, Sea" by Deborah Lee Rose
  • Fantasies and tall tales like "Ackamarackus" by Julius Lester or "Shaq & the Beanstalk" by Shaquille O'Neal
  • Fantasy/science fiction like the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling or the Animorphs series by Katherine A. Applegate
  • Biographies like "Jackie's Nine: Jackie Robinson's Values To Live By" by Sharon Robinson
  • Informational books
  • Series books like the Captain Underpants series by Dav Pilkey or the Dear America series by various authors
  • Poetry like "Just the Two of Us" by actor Will Smith
Culbreth was editor-in-chief of Working Mother magazine for 10 years and before that, executive editor of Redbook. She also has held editorial positions at "Seventeen," "Mademoiselle," and "Ladies' Home Journal." She's done a lot of televison, including a stint in 1995 as the Work/Family Contributing Editor for the "Today Show."

She was on the steering committee for the U.S. Department of Education's project, America Goes Back to School, and she serves on the board of the Child Care Action Campaign. She has two teen-agers.

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