The benefits of reading are well-known and plentiful. Reading every day decreases stress, increases memory, intellect, and vocabulary– it even helps teach empathy. But something tends to happen when we’re children–something scientists are calling the “decline by nine.”

According to a national reading survey by Scholastic, 57% of 8-year-olds read for fun. That number drops to a startling 35%; however, by the time they turn nine. But why?

There are several possible reasons behind the drop. Third grade is the year when many children (and their parents) start to get seriously involved in extracurricular activities like sports and music. It’s also the year when kids’ schedules usually start getting jam-packed with homework, standardized testing, and tests. With the increased stress and decreased free time, it’s no wonder that reading for fun tends to fall by the wayside.

This doesn’t have to be the case, though. Kids whose parents continue to read to them through grade school tend to keep reading for fun on their own through high school and well into adulthood. In addition to fostering their love of learning, reading aloud to your children strengthens your relationship and gives you and your child some time to spend together. Be sure to keep this experience as relaxing and positive as possible; however, since turning this into yet another chore for your child can keep them from enjoying it in the future.

By turning reading into a reward instead of a chore, and by using it as an opportunity to help your child explore new subjects while spending one-on-one time with them, you can help ensure your child’s academic and personal success, and keep them from succumbing to the “decline by nine” epidemic.