As a family, fit reading into each summer day

Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Los Altos brothers Will and Jack Park read at the Los Altos main library. Longtime educator Elaine Sigal underscores the importance of encouraging children to read.

It almost doesn’t matter what we read as long as we are reading to ourselves and to our children.

Reading is the crux of all education and learning. Without superior reading skills, all other subjects will be harder, take more time to learn and might not interest us.

We read to our children when they are little, so why stop?

One of my favorite days when teaching school was reading a Shakespeare play in prose to my Advanced Placement students. I had them put their heads down on their desks and just listen. After they understood the format of the play and which morals, themes and characters were represented, we were able to read/act the play from a stronger stance.

Why do we stop reading to our children? Why do we not encourage them to read more? Why do we not insist that our children read for as many hours as they play video games?

Please don’t let your children spend a summer without books as their companions. Vegetation belongs in the ground, not in your children’s heads.

Following are a few suggestions to encourage your children’s reading skills.

• Read to them every day – it doesn’t matter how old they are.

• Require that they read at least an hour a day – it doesn’t need to be at one sitting.

• Help them select age-appropriate books they would enjoy.

• Use the library as a family.

• Schedule family reading time each day or night.

• Make it cool – dress up as characters, eat food from the time period, speak in accents. Enjoy it with them – you get to be a child again.

Do you remember the library reading contests? How many books did you read in a summer? Do you remember the star charts? How many of us read just to earn a star? You can offer stars to children of all ages. Encouragement doesn’t need to come in the form of a paper star, but ideally we should urge everyone to read.

I’m frequently asked whether it matters if students read a hard copy or an electronic book. My answer is that it is a personal preference. The advantage of a device is that you can travel with it. The advantage of a hard copy is that you can touch it. It doesn’t matter, as long as we all read.

Elaine Sigal is a Los Altos resident who has been an educator for more than 35 years. She is founder of MindLaunch, a tutoring, academic advising and college counseling company. For more information, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit

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