Reading Outside of School: How Much is Enough?We all know that the biggest readers are often the biggest achievers, so a daily regimen of reading is a must. Many parents wonder how much their children should be reading outside of school, however. While there’s no definitive answer to that question, there are some guidelines you can follow to ensure that your child is getting her daily dose of literature.


Emerging Readers
Before your child starts school, reading is something that you will likely have to do for her (unless you have a prodigy on your hands), but that doesn’t mean that it’s not an important exercise, and it certainly doesn’t mean that she can’t participate in the activity. The U.S. Department of Education reports that just slightly more than half of all children (55%) were read to on a daily basis before entering Kindergarten. The other 45% unfortunately miss out on the early literacy skills that make up the foundation of their future as proficient readers—skills like recognizing letters and words and associating words with sounds. Tragically, they also miss out on the opportunity to fall in love with books at an early age, which often robs them of the incentive to learn how to read independently. While there’s no need to set a timer for reading at this age, it’s wise to make books a part of your daily routine. Display books where your child can see them, flip the pages on her own, and look at the pictures. Have story time together at least once a day whether it be in the morning, after lunch, or at bedtime.

Beginning Readers
For some children, learning to read is a breeze, but for others it can seem like an insurmountable task. In order to determine how much your child should practice reading outside of school, you’ll need to have your finger on the pulse of both her progress and her attitude towards reading. If your child takes to reading quickly, then he’ll likely want to show off his newly acquired skills every chance he gets. On the other hand, if your child is really struggling, then 10-15 minutes after school may be all the practice he can handle without becoming frustrated or discouraged. Instead of forcing him to read practice books over and over again, find another way that your child can practice literacy skills, such as playing an online reading game like Red Apple Reading to build his reading foundation!

In order to ensure that your struggling reader doesn’t become a reluctant one, you’ll need to provide lots of patience and encouragement during this highly sensitive period, and make sure you continue to read to your child aloud daily so that he can still enjoy the pleasures associated with reading, not just the pain of struggling to learn a new skill.

Independent Readers
According to Scholastic, the amount of time kids spend reading is directly related to reading ability and overall academic achievement. Thus, once your child begins to read fluently on her own, it’s time to start ensuring both quality and quantity of texts. That means you’ll need to supply challenging books that advance your child’s vocabulary and reading proficiency—and lots of them. Make sure you choose titles that are engaging and not so difficult that your child becomes frustrated in an attempt to decode the book. Remember, the message at this stage should always be that “reading is fun!” As your child becomes older (i.e. middle school and beyond), reading may take a backseat to other activities such as electronics and social time, so you might have to give your child a daily nudge to read for at least 20 minutes a day. If you play your cards right and choose books that are related to your child’s interests, that 20 minutes could easily become hours of reading fun!

All children and families are different, and no expert can tell you what’s best for your child. Rest assured that as long as you’re exposing your child to books and literacy on a daily basis, you’re giving her the advantage she needs to become a successful, lifelong reader and learner!