Thursday, January 28, 2010

Raising Readers

See Johnny run. Run, Johnny, run . . . far away from the material typically offered to emergent readers.

Book reports, required literature, and boring comprehension exercises may have sapped the joy right out of your student's reading experience. A good book should be eagerly anticipated, not considered a dreaded chore. I've made plenty of mistakes during my parenting journey, but I'm pleased to have raised a houseful of readers. Reading for pleasure builds vocabulary, improves spelling and grammar, nurtures the imagination and provides countless other educational benefits. How can parents encourage reading without putting it in the same category as flashcards?

1. Set a good example. Children model what they see. If your child sees you reading, reading as a pleasurable pastime won't be alien to him. He will have grown up with the idea.

2. Read aloud to your children. Infancy is not too early to begin. Even a baby will enjoy the sound of your voice, and it's not a bad way to pass the time while waiting for that little one to finally sleep for the night.

3. Make reading an enjoyable part of your routine. A book or two at bedtime is a common habit, but there are other options. Because I get up before they do and have already eaten, I also read to my children while they're having breakfast.

4. When it's time to teach reading, make it fun! There are many reading programs to choose from. Dick and Jane may have worked for previous generations, but today's student can enjoy online phonics instruction with enjoyable, funny characters. Kids love humor!

5. Whenever possible, allow your student to select his own reading material. "Requiring" a certain book to be read is a guaranteed to dampen enthusiasm.

6. Frequent the library. Children usually appreciate outings, and a trip to the library is a great way to associate books with an enjoyable experience in your child's mind.

7. Keep plenty of books on hand. Browse rummage sales and second hand stores for books on your child's reading level, and keep a constant stream of them entering your house.

8. Store books in an accessible place. Book shelves discourage young children, as the books are difficult to see and select and impossible to put away. We store our picture books in dish tubs.

9. Share reading. You read the pages on your side of the book and your child reads the pages on his side. There are actually books designed for this type of reading, with a line or two of child-friendly text on the "child" side and a couple of paragraphs on the "parent" half.

10. Re-think book reports. Why should the act of finishing a book generate an additional task? Casual discussion is a much more natural way for a child to share what he has read. You might want to assign one or two book reports to acquaint your student with the process, but initiate casual discussion most of the time.

11. Don't stop reading aloud when your student can read by himself. My family gathers each morning for an hour of shared reading. We sample books as if they are assorted chocolates, reading a classic this week, a mystery the next, followed by something like "How to Play Marbles".

12. During long car trips, bring along a few books and conveniently "forget" to bring extra batteries for the videogames!

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