Creating Good Readers and Brushing a Toddler's Teeth

By Catherine Pearlman

May 19, 2018 4 min read

Dear Family Coach: I want my kids to be good readers and read as much as possible. What's the best way to make this happen? — Literary Dad

Dear Dad: Being a good reader and enjoying reading are two totally different things. It is possible to be a proficient reader who understands nuances, subtext and complex vocabulary but not passionate about sitting down with a book. It is also possible to adore reading but perhaps not score high on standardized tests. Focusing all energy on ability instead of satisfaction can suck the joy right out of reading.

To encourage your children to learn the love of books and stories, start by making reading a family affair. Read aloud in the living room after dinner or while snuggling just before bedtime. Get books on tape for long car rides and listen together, discussing the story along the way. Or try having family reading time when everyone gets their favorite book and reads for a designated span. Don't worry about what book is chosen. If it interests your child, it is a good book. And if your children struggle to find a book that engages curiosity, think outside the box. The Guinness Book of World Records or the National Geographic Almanac, or even a cookbook, could foster the love of reading. Try to limit access to television and video games. When boredom sets in, the kids might just pick up a book. The love of reading can develop over time, so don't give up. It is a worthy endeavor if you keep it fun.

Dear Family Coach: Every night, my wife and I have to fight with our 19-month-old daughter about brushing her teeth. We are only using ice water, but we think it's important to brush after her final milk before bed. Is our daughter too young to be allowed to brush her teeth? — Peeved Parents

Dear Peeved: I commend you for your careful attention to your daughter's teeth. Far too many parents feed toddlers a bottle of milk before bed as an aid to settle down. However, this can lead to rotted baby teeth, which impacts the health of the adult teeth.

Unfortunately, a 19-month-old doesn't have the ability to properly brush each and every tooth with careful attention, although I'm sure she thinks she does. Children can't reliably brush their own teeth until the age of 6. So you will need to continue to help her brush. But here is how you can leave the battle behind:

The trick with a toddler is to make her feel in control, like you don't even want to brush her teeth. Continue to let your daughter brush her own teeth. Make it fun and a game. And take your time. If she can brush for about two minutes, she will eventually reach most of the milk remnants. When she is all finished, tell her that you have the speed round. Encourage her to do the speed round with her hand on the brush while you direct it. Be silly and quirky. She will love it. Once she is old enough to understand how not to swallow the toothpaste, you can move to a pea-sized dollop of paste. But continue to allow her to brush first until her heart's content, after which you complete the brushing.

Dr. Catherine Pearlman is the author of "Ignore It! How Selectively Looking the Other Way Can Decrease Behavioral Problems and Increase Parenting Satisfaction." To write to Dr. Pearlman, send her an email at [email protected] To find out more about Dr. Catherine Pearlman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

Photo credit: at Pixabay

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