This week we’re joined by educator, activist and stand-up comedian Alvin Irby who tells us how we can get our kids into reading. According to Alvin, it all comes down to the development of their “reading identity.” Listen to hear Alvin talk with Jordan and Lifehacker senior health editor (and parent) Beth Skwarecki about how to get your kids more engaged with books, and the different approaches that parents and teachers alike can use to motivate their kids to read.
Alvin is the founder of the non-profit literacy project, Barbershop Books, and the author of the children’s book, Gross Greg.
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Highlights from this week’s episode
From the Alvin Irby interview:
On how he got started on the path towards improving literacy:
I think one of the key experiences was kind of exposure to institutionalized racism and particularly how it played out in kind of rigor across different types of courses in high school...I was in a regular English class where, in 10th grade, where we were reading short stories and doing spelling lists...And I remember it being just like bored out of my mind...So I go to my counselor, she switches me into pre-AP English. I get into this class right beginning of a new semester. She’s handing out book packets with lists and lists of novels and talking about how we got to read two novels and write two book reports. And I just remember asking, like, when you say two novels, you mean like the whole thing?... And I just remember thinking to myself, if this is what 10th grade English is supposed to be, then like, why isn’t the other regular English class doing the same thing?... I didn’t have the language to describe what I was experiencing, what I was seeing. But I knew that reading was at the center of the injustice and different expectations around how much reading or the quality or rigor connected to that reading.
On the importance of cultivating your child’s reading identity:
[I]f the kid identifies as a reader, if you’re providing children with positive experiences or culturally-based reading routines, then, you know, they begin to kind of want to do it not because of some external reward, but because it’s just who they are and it’s what they do. And so I think that creating family routines like going to the library is key, creating family reading time in the house. You know, when I taught kindergarten first grade, one of the greatest insights that I gained is that at the end of the day, a lot of kids just want to be grown. So whatever they see the grown people in their lives doing, that’s what they conclude it means to be a part of their family or their community.
On what a lot of parents get wrong about read-aloud time:
I think I think a lot of adults and parents underestimate the power of reading aloud longer books. I think that a lot of adults when doing read aloud, have just gotten used to, “OK, I’m going to read a picture book that I’m going to begin it and then I’m going to end it. And when I finish, it’s done.” But I think that, you know, as kids get older and especially if they kind of have not cultivated their own reading stamina, I think a still reading to kids can be really beneficial and reading that type of content that they want.
To hear more of Alvin’s great tips on encouraging kids to read, we highly recommend listening to the full episode.