Librarian Angela Perna Joins New York Times Discussion on “How to Raise a Reader”

Librarian Angela Perna Joins New York Times Discussion on “How to Raise a Reader”


In a school full of book lovers, Angela Perna is the “head reader.” As the school librarian, she presides over the C.V. Starr Library and Learning Center and its collection of nearly 24,000 volumes, a host of online resources, and lists of book recommendations for every occasion: summer reading, holidays/cultural celebrations, grief and hardship, and more.

A trusted resource for teachers, students, and parents alike, Ms. Perna never misses an opportunity to reinforce her knowledge. Among these resources is This fall, she attended a special event featuring the authors of “How to Raise a Reader,” the online guide turned book by Pamela Paul and Maria Russo. She returned with some valuable advice about how parents can inspire a love of reading in their children. 

“Parents see the academic connection to reading and feel pressured that they should help their child learn to read and excel at it,” says Ms. Perna. “What this book aims to convey is that reading needs to be a shared family value. It should be fun and pleasurable—just as families enjoy sports together, or art, or movies, they can embrace reading.” 

Some other advice:

  • Celebrate the library card: Treat your child’s first library card as the milestone event that it is. Make it an occasion to begin using a wallet. Children love the grown-up feeling this inspires, and the privilege of checking out books from the library is part of that.

  • Keep picture books in the picture! Rather than replace picture books with readers and chapter books as children’s reading skills grow, the authors’ advice is to embrace them. “Picture books are an art form,” Ms. Perna says. “The language is more sophisticated than it is in transitional chapter books, and the pictures build background knowledge. Once children start to read, they can lose exposure to some very creative writing if they move on too quickly from picture books.”

  • Dealing with Digital: The question of how digital devices affect children’s reading habits is on every parent’s mind. Parents who want their children to choose books over screens need to do the same. Make a point of saying, “I’m going to read my book now,” rather than picking up a device.

  • The Gift of Reading: Create family rituals that encourage children to give reading-inspired gifts. “Children can write a poem, or even memorize one, instead of buying a present for their parents or grandparents.”

  • Books to Grow With: Don’t be afraid to challenge your child with books, Ms. Perna says. “Books provide a safe place to approach mature themes. Sitting with a book is more conducive to thinking things over than being in front of a screen.”

One final bit of advice: “The surest way to encourage your seventh or eighth grade child to read a particular book is to tell them they can’t. Telling your child that the book is ‘too mature’ or that you’re not sure they are ready for it is almost a guarantee that your preteen will pick up that book.”