My post, The Benefits of Reading with Children, turned out to be much more popular than I’d predicted. The interest this post generated along with a recent conversation with a friend who is mom to a hesitant reader has inspired me to turn this topic into a mini-series of posts about reading with your children.
In this post, I want to focus on ways parents can help their children discover the joy of reading. My hope is that these tips can be helpful for resistant readers in the elementary grades as well as beginning readers. All in all, I think they’ll make good guidelines for all parents to keep in mind as they’re raising readers.
Reading is one of the subjects I taught to young kids for many years. One of my goals each school year was to do whatever it took to help each child see how much fun books could be. The following three principles guided me in this task. 1. Get the child involved in choosing their books. 2. Stretch their comfort zone. 3. Keep it fun. Let me expand on each guideline.
1. Get the kids involved. Any time children have the power of choice and some input on the decision making process, they are more amenable to the task at hand. Give your child lots of opportunities for choosing books to read. Think frequent trips to the library, bookstore, or even the local thrift store. Provide ample time for them to browse and skim the books. Show them how you pick out a book. Ask them what types of topics they’re interested in (ballet, dinosaurs, fairies, trains, etc), and then guide them to those books.
2. Stretch their comfort zone. When I was teaching, I would require my students to read one book each month from a different genre (mystery, non-fiction, humorous, historical fiction, biography, etc…). (They could choose the book, but it had to fit within the guidelines of that genre.) I always found that hesitant readers would eventually discover a genre that they really liked, and then they would always go back to that for more books to enjoy on their own. Try to introduce different kinds of books to your child to see if you can find one they really like. Start by sticking with topics they enjoy (magic, super heroes, animals, soccer,etc…), but just change up the genre.
3. Keep it fun! Reading should not become tedious or frustrating. If it does, stop and take a break from it, and analyze what is causing the problem. (Is the book too hard or not a topic of interest?) To help make reading time fun, try some of the following ideas.
One thing children enjoy about reading with a grown-up is the undivided attention that comes with it. So turn off the devices (unless you’re using an e-reader), and cuddle up with the kiddo(s) and really bring that story to life together. You can do other things to extend the fun of a story.
- Use different voices for each character.
- Create a craft project to “show” the story. (Follow my Storybook Activities board on Pinterest for lots of ideas.)
- Invite friends to read the same book and have a book club.
- See if there’s a movie that goes with your book, and watch it together.
- Make paper-bag puppets and act out your favorite part of the story.
- Think up a different ending for the book.
- Email or tweet the author with questions or your opinion.
Really the sky is the limit here. Use your imagination and find ways to make story time fun. After you do one or more of these extensions with one book, your child will assume you’ll do it for the next book, and they will most likely be more focused on the story in order to find opportunities for extension.
[bctt tweet=”Some kids discover the magic of books immediately, others need guidance to see where that magic lies.”]
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