Are you a reader? Do you understand the importance of reading for children? Do you read to your child?
Reading to our children is Parenting 101, but sadly, many parents don’t do it, particularly after the child has learned to read himself. Reading to our children and encouraging them to read has so many benefits. They include:
• Developing the imagination. (Reading requires kids to imagine the stories in their mind’s eye. TV creates the images for them.)
• Setting a foundation for phonics and pre-reading.
• Learning life-long spelling and grammar skills. (The non-readers I know couldn’t spell if their lives depended on it!)
• Broadening the vocabulary, exposing the reader to words he might not otherwise encounter.
• Encouraging grammatically correct speech. (Read quality literature and you’ll never read sentences like “Him and I are going to the store.” or “Where are you at?”)
• Developing a life-long love for reading.
These benefits just scratch the surface. But based on these alone, we should be encouraged to raise voracious readers. So how do you raise a voracious reader? Here are some tips:
• Start reading from day one. I started reading to my kids when they were 4 months old. It’s never too early to start.
• Schedule reading times. At a minimum, read before bed. Also read during lunch and before nap. For older children who may be reluctant readers, make daily reading a requirement.
• Have a “sustained silent reading” time every day. This is time where you all just sit around reading books on your own. You read your book and your children read theirs.
• Allow even the littlest ones to hold books. But teach children to respect books by carefully turning pages (not tearing them) and putting them away carefully (not throwing them!).
• Go to the library, often. Go to story times, join the library’s summer reading program, and let your child choose as many books as he wants.
• Surround yourselves in books. Keep reading spots in several areas of the home (bathroom, by the child’s bed, in the play room, etc.).
• Encourage friends and family to gift books for birthdays and Christmas. Teach children that books are a treasured gift.
• Be a reading role model. Let your children see you reading books. This is something I need to work on because I do most of my reading when they are asleep. This is where sustained silent reading helps.
• Put the electronics away. Limit your and your child’s screen time.
• Don’t rely on schools to create a voracious reader. Reading happens first and foremost in the home.
• Get squirrelly boys to sit and read. Allow them to read graphic novels, comic books, joke books, and general information non-fiction books. Do you see your boy picking up rocks outside to find bugs?Get an “All About Bugs” book from the library.
• Use programs like BookAdventure.com and the library’s summer reading program to give children incentives to read.
• Use sites like GoodReads.com and ReadKiddoRead.com to find good books. GoodReads.com is my favorite new site. You can rate books you’ve read, and it will give you suggestions for books just like it. There are also lists created by others. I searched for children’s books that are in a series. There are several Indian in the Cupboard books. You can also search for Newbery and Caldecott award winners. (Look at all of these lists!) GoodReads.com is also social, so you can see what your friends are reading and what they recommend.
• Read to your child long after he has learned to read on his own. Reading aloud enables you to read books that are beyond the child’s reading level. The vocabulary, plot lines, and character development are much richer. Also reading aloud enables you to vary your tone for punctuation (quotes, exclamation marks, etc.) which makes for a more interesting story.
• Allow your child to read over your shoulder. William follows along as I read to him and will sometimes correct me if I read a word too fast! The other day, he commented on the word “ajar” wondering why it was squished together like that (assuming it should have been “a jar”). This only happened because he saw the word, and it gave me a great opportunity to introduce a new vocabulary word! With pre-readers and emerging readers, you might point to words (particularly sight words) as you read them.
• Encourage quality, not quantity. Rich books like the Indian in the Cupboard and The Cricket in Times Square (William’s favorites!) are better than “twaddle” like Diary of a Wimpy Kid. (Don’t get me started on Captain Underpants. It has intentionally misspelled words! Luckily, William was smart enough to notice.)
• Savor books. Don’t zip through them, thinking more is more. Savor them and immerse yourselves in the characters’ lives. Even if your child wants to read more and more, just stop. Leave him hungry for more, and he’ll think and talk about the book and will ask for more reading times.
• Allow a child to read from a black-and-white e-reader like the Kindle if the device will create reading excitement. While iPads, the Kindle Fire, and other tablets can be good for reading, I suggest you avoid them. The temptation to play games can be too great, and would require quite a bit of oversight.
• Supplement reading with books on CD. These are perfect for room time. But be sure to use these as a supplement, not a replacement for reading.
If you like these tips and want to know more about the importance of reading, pick up a copy of The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease. Not only does it offer statistics about reading, but also it offers great suggestions for books. Nearly half the book is devoted to book suggestions.