As your child gets to 4th and 5th grades, his relationship with books and reading may change. His vocabulary is bigger. He can read more. He can read faster. And your child may become much more opinionated about what he wants to read, how much he wants to read, when he wants to read, how he wants to read.

As a parent, it can be hard to figure out your role in helping your child grow in her reading life. How hard should you push when she refuses to read? Should you steer her toward more educational and challenging material? Should you be happy as long as she’s willing to read what’s required in class? Should you let her listen to a required book on audio?

Teri Lesesne, a professor of library science at Sam Houston State University in Texas and a member of the National Council of Teachers of English, is well-versed in all these issues as a parent and a professional. “So much depends on the parent and the child and their relationship with books,” she says. “Trying to raise a reader is an act of faith.”

At this stage, most kids know how to read. Your child is discovering how to apply that powerful, newfound skill. Parents can help through encouragement, guidance, and patience...and faith. Here are some common parent quandaries, along with Lesesne’s suggestions on how to resolve them.

My child loves reading, but she wants to read easy, light fiction, books with little literary value. What should I do?

It’s not an either/or. We all love to read easy books. I love Stephen King. I know what to expect. Serial reading is part of what makes us readers. We can read literature and popular fiction. My 17-year-old is still rereading the Harry Potter series, and I have no problem with rereading. It’s okay to nudge a little. You can say, “I see you like The Boxcar Children. You might like this, too.”

My child just wants to read graphic novels. Are they even real books?

Yes! As with any type of book, there are great graphic novels, and others are not so good. I’m amazed at how much they bring and add to a spare text. In a true manga, a Japanese graphic novel, words are printed back to front and right to left, making the book even more challenging.

My child enjoyed the public library as a younger child, but now he turns up his nose. He wants to go to a chain bookstore and buy the books. How can I get him back to loving his library card?

Libraries are wonderful, and bookstores are wonderful, too. Older kids like having their own books. My kids love having books they don’t have to return. Owning books is one of those great things readers do. Some bookstores have a good young-adult book expert on staff, and that person can help with recommendations. If the books pile up, kids can weed out the ones they don’t want to keep and donate them to the public library or a children’s hospital.

My child just does not enjoy reading. He knows how to read and does not seem to have a learning disability. He just doesn’t like doing it, and getting him to read for school can be a battle. He will listen if I read aloud to him. Is this OK or am I enabling my 4th grader?

I think it’s wonderful for parents to read aloud to their kids, no matter how old they are. Kids can read aloud to their parents and read aloud to each other. Some kids love dramatic play and like to act out stories.

Is listening to the recorded book cheating? It’s the only way my child will do her summer “reading.”

Listening to the audiobook is not cheating or enabling. It involves different skills. I call it “reading with our ears.” We listen to audiobooks in the car. I’m a huge proponent. The quality is getting better all the time. I love beautiful narration; it adds a sense of what the character should sound like.

My child does not like to read books, but he spends a lot of time on the Internet. Does online reading count? Is he old enough for an e-reader?

Yes! Online text is reading. E-reading is reading. Some kids love technology and love reading on a Kindle or an iPad. As for what age a child should be to own an e-reading device, parents know best. You know whether your child is mature enough to be responsible for an e-reader.

I feel I have done everything I can to impart my love of reading to my child. Unfortunately, she seems to prefer playing sports, talking on the phone with friends, and just about anything else to reading. What should I do?

Never give up hope. You’ve planted the seeds. It may take a long time for those seeds to grow.


As you nudge your child along on her reading journey, your primary role is to make sure she has access to books. “That’s what makes the difference,” Lesesne says. “Whatever you do, I think it’s good. Graphic novels, audiobooks, series books, bookstores, e-readers...I love it all. There is very little you can do that’s wrong.”

Journalist Patti Ghezzi covered education and schools for 10 years for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. She lives in Avondale Estates, Ga., with her family, which includes husband Jason, daughter Celia, and geriatric mutt Albany.