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Why I'll Read to My Kids 'Til Their Thirties

I’ve kept so few of my early, lofty parenting resolutions. Once upon a time, my kids were going to eat a diet of mostly fresh fruits, vegetables and lean proteins from animals that were humanely raised. But the truth is that I bust out the macaroni and cheese on a (minimum) twice-weekly basis. I was going to have them learn a foreign language and master the piano. Almost all of my well-intentioned aspirations have ceded to the realities and rigors of actual parenthood.

RELATED: Raising a Reader

The one exception to my downward-shifting mothering standards has been reading. My kids might never master enough Spanish to order a burrito gordo, but by God, they will be readers—hopefully, lifelong readers who would no sooner give up the pleasures of reading than they would of good hygiene.

According to a recent study by Scholastic, I’m not alone in my enthusiasm for raising readers. The Scholastic study was designed to “explore family attitudes and behaviors around reading books for fun,” and offers insight to how to turn our children on to the joy of reading for pleasure. 71 percent of parents with children ages 6-17 rank “strong reading skills” as “the most important skill a child should have,” and fully 86 percent of parents say that “reading books for fun is extremely or very important.”

Who wouldn't want their children to be lifelong readers? Reading has the benefits of increasing vocabulary, stimulating imagination, increasing academic success and allowing your child a break from screens and technology. Reading can help foster tolerance, teach children to relax and—my favorite—gives them the opportunity to escape to another world.

83 percent [of children] said that they enjoyed reading aloud with their parents mainly because of the special bonding that happened during that time. More importantly, they didn’t want it to stop.

Not surprisingly, the study confirmed that the hours we’ve logged reading (and re-reading) "Goodnight, Moon" and "Fancy Nancy" to our toddlers will pay big dividends. And assuming you enjoy the nightly ritual of tearing through the "Amelia Bedelia" canon (really, who doesn’t?), there’s more good news: You should continue reading to your kids even when they’re old enough to do it themselves. That’s right—long after your child has mastered reading, there are immense benefits to continuing to read aloud to her.

The children themselves confirmed the importance they put on the time spent reading with their parents. 83 percent of them said that they enjoyed reading aloud with their parents mainly because of the special bonding that happened during that time. More importantly, they didn’t want it to stop: 40 percent of children ages 6-11 wanted the reading to continue even after they were capable of reading independently. The study confirmed that those early positive associations of reading with pleasure and bonding will provide a solid foundation for lifelong reading.

Of course, no discussion of reading is complete without the specter of screen time. 71 percent of parents wish that their children would “do more things that didn’t involve screen time.”

Guess what? Children who develop a love of reading for pleasure spend less time in front of a screen. I’m not sure I needed Scholastic to confirm that for me, but now my empirical observations are backed by science.

RELATED: How Tablets Ruin Reading for Kids

I’m convinced that reading to my kids may be the best legacy I ever leave them, which is why I’ll be doing it until they are in their thirties.

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