Learning to Love Books
Let’s say your little one does something deserving of a reward. He cleans up after himself, he helps a sibling, he refrains from being annoying for a period of time, or whatever. You want to encourage such behavior, so what do you do? Give him candy? A toy? A trip to the arcade?
When my sister and I were young, my mother would always reward us with a book. At first it would be a picture book, then later a simple storybook, and eventually a new installment of the Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew mysteries. Consequently, my sister and I became avid readers and always did exceptionally well with literacy.
Psychologists talk of “primary” and “secondary” reinforcers; reinforcer being their fancy word for reward. Primary reinforcers are natural, biologically-based things that anyone will respond to – food, drink, etc. Secondary reinforcers are things that have no inherent value, but that we have learned to value – money, trophies, etc. And since we had to learn to value those things, someone had to teach us to value those things.
Unfortunately, most kids consider being “rewarded” with a book equivalent to getting socks and underwear for Christmas. For them reading has become a dreadful chore to be done merely in order to fulfill some school requirement. However, it is critical to realize that is an acquired and not inevitable attitude.
In this day and age of high-tech distractions, it is not easy to help your child develop literacy skills. But if from an early age you instill in him the idea that a book is a wonderful thing to be strived for, you will be giving him something that will be an enormous benefit both now and for the rest of his life.
Michael K. Meyerhoff, Ed.D. (a.k.a. “Dr. Mike”) is a member of the management team at Romp n’ Roll. After receiving his bachelor’s degree in psychology from Columbia University, he earned his master’s and doctorate degrees in human development from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, where he also held a position as a researcher with the Harvard Preschool Project. He may be contacted via e-mail at email@example.com.