Inspire kids through reading

From Backpacks to Briefcases

By Vincent Lyles
President & CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee

Vincent Lyles

Vincent Lyles

A parent reading to a child is an age-old pastime; it often goes hand-in-hand with bedtime.

Yet many parents do not realize just how important reading is for kids, together as a family and for kids on their own.

No matter how young a child is, literacy is crucial to his or her educational and academic success and parents have the ability to make a big difference in their child’s reading achievement.

According to the National Institute for Literacy, children must read with ease and understanding by the end of third grade in order to take advantage of future learning opportunities.

In short, to ensure kids have the best chance to succeed in school, we must encourage them to read – and the sooner the better.

Reading also encourages kids to be imaginative and learn about new ideas and experiences they many have not known before.

Reading introduces children to different cultures outside their own and helps them understand their place in the world— and the opportunity to change it for the better.

Boys & Girls Clubs encourages reading at home by providing books to our families throughout the summer and by providing parents with literacy techniques and fun activities.

Here are some suggestions for parents to try at home to encourage their kids to not only read, but become happy and inspired readers:

• Find out what interests them.

Many kids don’t read because they say they don’t like it and that reading is boring. Connecting your child’s interests with what they’re reading can make a big difference.

Many kids live for sports and follow their favorite sports heroes online and on TV.

If this is the case with your kids, try giving them a biography on their favorite athlete or try sports fiction.

• Make up a story together.

It’s not easy being creative on the spot, but most kids don’t care how “put together” your story is – it’s the activity itself that is fun.

Try telling a beginning of a story to your kids and have them add on to it with their own ideas.

You can even take it to the next level by writing it down or have them create an actual story book and include pictures.

• Play matching or rhyming games.

Practicing rhyming words or matching words to pictures can be a fun and interactive way to play with your kids and practice their literacy skills without them even knowing it.

Pick a word and see how many words your child can find that rhyme.

• Let your kids read to you.

Reading to your children will always be a special time for your little ones and you.

Try flipping the switch and have them read to you.

This goes over well with kids of all ages. One fun twist can be to choose to read in funny voices or in character.

• Visit the Milwaukee Public Library.

Not only does the Milwaukee Public Library offer an extensive selection of children’s books to check out, but the library offers year-round activities and events for families.

Check out their “Kid Zone” on their website:

March 3 marks the National Education Association’s Read Across America Day and is the perfect reason to pick up a book and start inspiring your children through reading.

Read Across America provides parents with many tips for reading aloud, age-appropriate activities and book lists on their website:

Until my next column, you’re invited to visit a Boys & Girls Club nearest you. Visit our website at to find a location.

Keep up-to-date about Boy & Girls Clubs and other youth-related news through, on Twitter at @bgcmilwaukee, or at