Photo courtesy of Dads Read, Public Library Services
How can I, as a parent, affect my child’s reading life?
If you look on the internet you might come away with the idea that you need to heavily scaffold the reading your child is doing. That you need to set them up with questioning techniques, that you must teach your child to sound out difficult words, or to ask a lot of questions to check their comprehension. But you don’t.
No. You really don’t.
Creating a genuine love of reading, which is what we aim for when building new people, is done as most anything is done. One step at a time. Gently. Carefully. Tended to with a heap of kindness, a pinch of reverence with lots of FUN!
Here is my recipe for creating readers who genuinely LOVE to read:
- Children who are read to become readers. So,read to them often and regularly. They learn the language of stories, the language of informational text. They learn that reading can show them the world. So, set aside that extra 10 minutes each evening and read to your kid! This is 10 minutes you will never regret investing in them.
- If they struggle with reading a text or with words, help them! Let them know you know they can do it (read it!) but help them! Compliment and lift them up. Let them know how proud you are of how they keep on trying. Everyone grows from hearing a compliment! Give your child a compliment based on what it is they are trying. For example, “Christine, I hear you trying to figure out that word using what you see in the pictures! That’s such a great way of understanding this story. And you’re right. It could be that Gerald is ‘stopping’ Piggy!” And then, if it makes sense…keep on going! This is how real readers read. They work things out as they go, making sure it makes sense as they continue to read.
- Talk with them about the things you are reading. “I read the most interesting article today. It was about Fortnight. Have you heard of that game, honey? Oh, you have? Well, the article was talking about how dangerous the game can be. What do you think about that? ” What a great way to open up a conversation with your child AND show the power of reading as a strong adult reader!
- Introduce them to many kinds of literature. Start with a library, bookstore or yard sale that is selling used children’s books. Remember that you read all kinds of things from texts to magazines to emails to the latest best seller on the New York Times reading list to the informational insert that helps you set up your new appliance or device. Sometimes you read for pleasure, sometimes for work, sometimes because you have to learn something. Yes, youtube counts as reading at times! We call this visual text, and it too takes important reading skills.
- Let them catch you reading. And talking about books, articles, essays, whatever you’re reading! “Did you see that article about XYZ today? What did you think about it? I was interested in the idea that….. ” This is a great thing for children to hear the adults in their lives discussing. Can they get involved too? Why not? Everyone needs to think, consider and discuss important new information. This is a great way to involve your child as they grow up and help them become good citizens who have an understanding of issues facing our world.
- Make sure there are plenty of good book choices available for them. Don’t have a large home library? That’s okay. Visit the public library, local bookstore, yard sales, book giveaways. Ask people for their old books. Children flourish when they have a choice of what to read, and people to talk about what they are reading with.
- Make sure there is time carved out in each and every day for them to read and to be read to. Sometimes you’ll be too busy, or too tired or too done for this. But for the most part, five to six of every seven days, be sure you pull your child up in your lap, or next to you on the couch, and let them choose a story for you to read to them before bed. Read the same loved story again and again. Children are learning so much when you do this for them. You may be completely tired of Goodnight Moon, Mrs. Pigglewiggle or Dogman, but read it one more time. Children want this repeated reading because they are learning the language of story, understanding the story in a different or deeper way, connecting to you and to the time of being close in meaningful and important ways. I cannot overestimate the importance of this time spent in communion with your child.
- Show how important you believe reading to be. (And if you don’t… think about the reading you actually do every day… is it email? texts? recipes? directions? … that’s reading too and you can bet its important!) We could scarcely get through a day without reading. Try it sometime!
So, to every over-worked, sleep deprived, amazingly loving and caring parent who wants to help develop a love of reading in your child. Please don’t worry about creating a graphic organizer or asking all the right questions about your child’s choice of reading material. Instead, pull them up in your lap and read them a story. Share a laugh over a comic strip or learn something new as you read directions on how to assemble something or learn to play a new game together. Enjoy it! Have fun. Your child deserves it and so do you. And reading opens the world to you both.