Hi, Families, and thanks for having me.
Tips to encourage children to read? I know one thing that doesn't work. My parents tried paying me when I was eight or nine or ten. Mostly classics, I think, and there was no way I was going to get into that. I was into the money, though, and to get it I had to answer questions about the books. I got awfully good at skimming, good enough in any case to fool my parents, who at that point didn't know the books any better than I did.
Except for comic books, I never really enjoyed reading until they made me do it in college. I was in liberal arts and they really stuck it to me. It started out as a school chore, but became more and more congenial, and after two or three years I was hooked. The school did exactly what it was supposed to do, and I'm grateful for that, but, migod, I was twenty years old and had piddled away fifteen! If I ever had kids, though, I thought I knew what to do.
And in due course I did produce a son named John, and it happened that I became his single parent when he was six. Years earlier, though, I made bedtime stories an essential for us, like food, air and a place to live. It may be that we never missed a night for ten years when we were together, even on the road. I read him everything from Aesop to Tolkien and Dahl. (Harry Potter hadn't come along yet.) By the time John was twelve, we had gone through most of Dickens and Victor Hugo, with me still reading aloud at bedtime. John is a linguist now and was becoming an inveterate reader well before I got done.
So I say as loudly as I can, immerse them! From the age of a few months or even on the ride home from the birthing hospital. Read to them every day without fail, so that by the time they are two or three, they will expect it and know the process as a pleasure. Because it is a pleasure except to some who come to it later as something foreign. Then, when they learn to read, they will want to read. It's really so simple. And it's fun for both of you. And it's almost sure to work.
Thanks again for inviting me.