Why I Co-Read with my 8th-grader

In my opinion, a love of reading is the single biggest academic skill a child can develop prior to high school. A child's relationship to reading impacts their academic trajectory more than any other single factor. 

In a prior blog post, I offer 10 Tips on how to raise an avid reader.

Today, I have to admit that I have failed to achieve this goal for my 8th grader. He will read when he has to, but there is no spark - there is no love of reading.

I have tried many of the techniques and failed. Maybe I wasn't disciplined enough, or I assumed he'd be like his brothers, or I was just too tired to follow-through on the technique.

As a former Navy SEAL, giving up is not in my playbook, so I began looking for more options.

Here are some things I considered:

  1. Bribery: I'll pay you $10 for every book you read
  2. Punishment: If you don't read a book every month, you're grounded
  3. Negotiation: No IG time until you read 20 pages
  4. Fear: If you're not a good reader, you won't get into a good college
  5. Comparison: Don't you want to read as well as your brothers?

None of these ideas resonated with me. Each had its own drawbacks.

After months of thinking, I came up with another option that I call "co-reading".

Co-reading is when you and your child both read the same book at the same time (not literally at the same time). For instance, each of you read one chapter per day of the same book. Then, that night, you both discuss the plot, characters, literary techniques, action scenes, etc. 

So far, this technique has shown promise. We each read one chapter per night (about 10-12 pages) and then have a nightly discussion about it.

We both feel some obligation to each other to have the chapter read by the time we connect. It's almost like a mini book club. You want to be a contributor.

I have no idea how long this experiment will last or if it will bear fruit. So far, we're only on our third book. But, that's better than no books. 

If you want to try co-reading, here are some tips:

  • Start with a book your child wants to read
  • Keep the obligation realistic (even if it's only 5 pages a night)
  • Let your child lead the discussion about the book
  • Cut them some slack if they have extra homework or sports obligations
  • Make sure you keep up with your end of the bargain

What are some drawbacks:

  • Time commitment (you have to carve out time to read and discuss)
  • Contrived (this is not how the real world works)
  • Motivation (will this external motivation ever turn into self-motivation?)

Obviously, the training wheels will have to come off eventually. This isn't a long-term solution. This technique will likely end when your child enters high school.

The idea is to create a habit of reading that will eventually become self-directed. Sometimes, kids just need a few months of focused reading before they get comfortable with the practice. 

I give myself five more months of co-reading with my son. If, he hasn't caught the reading bug by the beginning of 9th grade - it will be over. He'll be on his own. 

Yes, this is a labor-intensive strategy for a parent. I don't necessarily need (or want) this on my daily to-do list. However, I believe that giving our children the gift of reading is worth the effort.

Have you come up with any other strategies to help build a habit of reading into your child?

Keep Prepping,

Author: PrepWell Academy's Founder, Phil Black, has spent a lifetime cracking the code on the world's most competitive programs: Yale University, Harvard Business School, Navy SEALs, Goldman Sachs, Entrepreneurship, Shark Tank, etc.

PrepWell Academy is an online mentoring program that immerses teens in a variety of experiences and opportunities. In doing so, it helps them find and pursue their passions in a way that will not only make them extremely compelling college applicants, but also young adults who are well equipped to face life's future challenges. Black's specialties include military service academies, ROTC scholarships, Ivy League admissions, and student-athletes.

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