Creating Good Readers and Brushing a Toddler's Teeth

By Catherine Pearlman

June 18, 2016 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 that 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 isn't passionate about sitting down with a book. It is also possible to adore reading, but not score high on standardized tests. Focusing all energy on ability rather than satisfaction can suck the joy right out of reading.

To encourage your children to learn to love books and stories, start by making reading a family affair. Read aloud to them in the living room after dinner, or snuggle in with a book right before bedtime. Purchase books on tape for long car rides so you can listen together and discuss the story. Try instituting family reading time, where everyone chooses a book and reads for a designated amount of time. Don't worry about what books they choose; if it interests your child, it's a good book. If your children struggle to find a book that engages their curiosity, think outside the box. The Guinness Book of World Records, the National Geographic Kids Almanac or even a cookbook could foster a love of reading. Try to limit access to TV and video games as well. That way, when boredom sets in they might just pick up a book. A 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 to brush her teeth. We only use ice water, but we think it's important to brush after her bedtime milk. Is she too young to brush her teeth? — Peeved Parents

Dear Peeved: I commend you for paying attention to your daughter's teeth. Far too many parents feed toddlers a bottle of milk before bed to settle them down. However, this can rot their baby teeth, which impacts the health of their adult teeth.

Unfortunately, a 19-month-old doesn't have the ability to properly brush each and every tooth, although I'm sure she thinks she does. Children can't reliably brush their own teeth until age 6, so you will need to help her until then. But there is a way to leave this nightly battle behind.

The trick with a toddler is to make her feel in control, to act like you don't even want to brush her teeth. Keep letting her brush her own teeth. Make it a fun game, and take your time. If she can brush for about two minutes she will eventually reach every spot. When she is finished tell her you're going to have a speed round, where she holds the brush and you direct it. Be silly and quirky. She will love it. Once she is old enough to understand how not to swallow toothpaste you can increase to a pea-sized dollop of toothpaste. But even then keep letting her brush first — to her heart's content — after which point you complete the brushing.

Dr. Catherine Pearlman, the founder of The Family Coach, LLC, advises parents on all matters of child rearing. 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 www.creators.com.

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