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Raising a Reader: Tips from the School Librarian

Who better to chat with about inspiring children to love reading than the school librarian? Ruth Senske has helped countless children develop a love of reading since she began her career as a librarian in 1967. She currently serves as the librarian at Christ Community Lutheran School.

How can parents inspire a love of reading in their children?
 
I can think of several ways. First, a parent needs to set the example by having their children observe them enjoy reading. Also, parents can create rituals by setting aside time every day or evening to read books together. Finally, parents should have good books at home and can encourage a love of reading by visiting libraries and bookstores together.

What advice do you have for parents whose children struggle with reading?

I would encourage a parent to intentionally set time aside to read together. You also want to make sure that the reading level of a book is not too difficult for a child. It is important that a child feels a sense of accomplishment by being able to read the book.

What is the biggest change you have noticed in children’s reading habits over the course of your career?

Today’s children tend to read less traditional books and spend more time with technology and playing technology-related games. Also, families have gotten busier and so there seems to be less time available for a family to read together. The challenge for parents and schools going forward will be to create a learning culture that combines the best of what technology has to offer and couple it with a renewed understanding of the continuing power that books play in developing a child’s brain and spurring his or her imagination. 

What books should every child read before leaving grade school?

There are so many that come to mind. If forced to choose, I would lean towards selecting books that are considered “classics,” books for which parents and their children can share a common love. Books in this category include Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl; Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland; The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe; and Charlotte’s Web. For younger children my favorites include Goodnight Moon; Madeline; The Tale of Peter Rabbit; and of course, anything by Dr. Seuss!

Your son has authored a number of books. What was it like to have Kurt as a student when he was in grade school?

It was a joy. Kurt was an easy, eager student. The difficulty I had was that he wanted to answer all of the questions, and so oftentimes I would have to ignore him so that I could call on someone else. It was probably harder on him than me!

How can books compete with technology for a child’s attention?

This is the 64-million-dollar question. I have always felt that if a book is well written and has a great story line it will grab a child’s attention. What parents and teachers will have to continue to assess is how to blend seamlessly the best of what technology has to offer while still emphasizing the need to read “traditional” books, as both are still necessary as we teach children how to read and help them imagine and explore new worlds. 

What do you love most about being a librarian? 

I enjoy having the opportunity to help a child choose the right book, a book that will interest and educate him or her in the process. Also, I love searching for and publicizing good new books so that others can enjoy as well.

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