What Is The Number One Life Skill Kids Need?

Access to reading material early on will nurture a lifelong love of reading; reading is also a predictor of success.

By Jackie Saulmon Ramirez | August 12, 2015

If you had to choose only one skill for your child to become proficient in, which skill would you choose?

Discussing life skills recently, I was asked which life skill I thought was most needed by kids. My first reaction was between money management and nutrition. Money is important; creating a budget and long-term plan for how they spend their money could mean success or failure. Then again I thought about nutrition skills; that would include budgeting, shopping, meal planning and preparation. Health is important to long-term health and diet plays an important role in that.

When parents read on a regular basis and discuss things they read with their children, they tend to have kids who become readers.

Thinking about my daughters, Chelsey and Katie, I realized that reading skills had served them well so far. In every single class they studied, reading was the primary skill needed to do well: Math, social studies, health, science and so on. Reading also helped them read directions from one place to another, to cook almost any new recipe, write a letter or create a resume. By far, reading is my #1 life-skill choice.

How can parents encourage reading in children?

Read to children when they are very young, even babies. There are some who believe babies in utero hear sounds and enjoy the spoken word so there is no wrong time to begin reading to children.

Parents foster a love of reading by allowing kids to read whatever they are drawn to: books, magazines, or comics and so on.

Be a role model; let children see you reading. Read often and share what you learned during mealtime: Read books, newspapers, magazines, manuals and so on.

Give children books at every opportunity and let friends and relatives know that books are appreciated. Cost should not hinder kids from reading; Yard sales, secondhand shops and library discard sales are a few money-saving ideas. Children owning their own books can raise their self-esteem.

Give Kids what they want to read. Parents may prefer “War and Peace” but giving children materials they want to read and are interested in is a good place to start. As minds blossom, so will their choices in material. Getting kids reading is the goal.

Listen to them summarize material. Younger kids want parents to be as excited about their stories as they are. Ask questions and get their take on the characters and situations and ask ‘what if’ questions.

Older children can read to younger children and both benefit with practice and learning. (Kids reading to each other helps their relationships.)

Set aside time for reading. It is easier to schedule reading than to crunch out a few minutes between school and other activities. Reading can give kids valuable ‘alone time’ to relax, to think and to wonder about the world and their place in it.

Take reading further. When my daughters read “The Cay” by Theodore Taylor, I brought home a coconut, drained the milk for them to try and we cooked with coconut. Doing that with every book might seem daunting but for some stories, it adds a flavor kids will remember for years.

Use technology and e-readers. For those that embrace gadgets, there are tablets, computers and Kindles for reading. There are also many free and paid e-books if you and your child prefer.

Encourage others to join in. Getting a friend to share a book discussion can be fun. Allowing children to explore ideas and values is a great way to broaden friendships.

Joke and riddle books, comics, magazines, short stories and such are suggested bathroom reading material that can be completed in one sitting.

Make use of the one-seat library. There, I said it. Bathrooms without reading material are very boring places; there’s nothing printed on the paper so bring your own. Having a few interesting magazines can transform that little room with little spurts of reading. Joke and riddle books, comics, magazines, short stories and such are suggested bathroom reading material that can be completed in one sitting. Serious readers tend to lose track of time with novels so a clock or timer should be readily available.

Reading is a lifelong activity and children can begin at any age. No matter what children do when they become adults, reading will support them in their journey. Do you have other suggestions for getting kids to read?

PHOTO: Courtesy of Cheriejoyful Under Flicker/CC License.
PHOTO: Courtesy of GlobalPartnership for Education Under Flicker/CC License.
PHOTO: Courtesy of Empire’s Comics Vault Under Flicker/CC License.
PHOTO: Courtesy of Neil Hester Under Flicker/CC License.
PHOTO: Courtesy of Sushiesque Under Flicker/CC License.e6

Copyright © 2014 Jackie Saulmon Ramirez. All Rights Reserved.

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About Jackie Saulmon Ramirez

Jackie has volunteered for more than twenty years for children and family issues. Currently she writes for parents in the "Reminder" and "Parent Rap" Facebook page. If you are interested in receiving the "Reminder," send her a message.
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8 Responses to What Is The Number One Life Skill Kids Need?

  1. Time has been in scarcer supply since my second child was born. We’ve read to him only a fraction of what we read to his brother. I’d assumed the fact we’re all talking incessantly would be enough exposure to words, but … perhaps not.

    We started reading tons of books just a couple weeks ago. He quickly went from babbling seldom and mostly pointing and barking to communicate to keeping up a flow of “conversation” wherever he goes. Now he brings me books to read (usually Todd Parr) and I know that, though the words are important, the books are, too.


    • Jackie Saulmon Ramirez says:

      The first baby gets the best from parents, truly. Parents have hundreds or thousands of photos of the first child and fewer of the second baby; the same goes with reading to them. 🙂 I heard that a lot in the Parents Anonymous groups regularly so you are normal.

      There is a correlation between oral and written word so both are important. Reading to them until they can read is good and continuing to read to them is good as well. There is a connection between readers and listeners that I’ve only recently discovered. I bought new copies of To Kill A Mockingbird and Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee and after I received the books by mail, I announced to my husband that I planned to read to him. I was surprised how eager he was for me to read to him. Also, when we forgot because we were busy, he was very disappointed. He is from Peru and while in the U.S. he has spent the bulk of his time studying and working with little time for novels. Reading to him has been an enriching experience for me.

      Now that you’ve gotten started reading with your kids, as soon as you can, get them a public library card. Public libraries are a wonderland of experiences over and beyond borrowing books. They usually have activities centered around kids and reading that they will love. Today’s libraries are very kid-friendly places and the goal is reading. I used to take my girls every week to read or renew books. They loved it. They had videos, music, magazines in all kinds of genres, there was something for everyone.

      Thanks for stopping by, Deborah! And good luck with those boys. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    • Jackie Saulmon Ramirez says:

      Thank you, Jueseppi! I do believe you are one of the sweetest human beings I have the pleasure of knowing. ❤


  2. Jackie
    Another fine demonstration of your understanding and wisdom
    and of your own skills, too

    Thank You so much for this sharing

    with love


    Liked by 1 person

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