Reading, it’s something we do every day. There are street signs, recipes, ingredients on packages, directions, letters and much more – each of which we read every day. While some children may love to pick up a book and float into another realm, there are also children – mine included – who struggle with reading and would rather ride around the block, play with toys and even empty the dishwasher, just to get away from having to put in those nightly reading minutes.
“When Nathan was young, he loved to be read to,” said Nicole, an early childhood teacher and mother of three. “He brought me books all the time and asked me to read them…When he started school he thought it was ‘cool’ that he could read some words in some books. As he got into second grade he really started to struggle with the fluency and comprehension in reading. I usually had him read each page twice. Well, that didn't last too long and he got sick of it real fast.”
With some persistence and creativity, Nicole has been able to get her son, now a sixth grader, to read more completely on his own.
So what does a parent do to encourage a child to get in those nightly reading minutes? First, be patient and show you care. Then, look at reading as being something fun, rather than a chore; and finally, find the “trick” that works best for your child. Just remember, what works one day, may not work the next, so be flexible, be diligent and keep trying new “tricks.”
Below are some ideas worth trying:
-Take turns reading paragraphs/pages. You read the left side, Johnny reads the right side. This is a great way to “share” the responsibility and model fluency. For early readers, check out the series “I read to you, you read to me,” by Mary Ann Hoberman. These short stories are often funny and encourage the adult and child to read together. The paragraphs are color-coded. One person reads the red words, another the purple words and then the blue words are read together.
-Read it twice. You read the page first, then have your child read it again. This is another great way to model fluency, and can help with comprehension.
-Create a reading nook. If you have a small corner, or a space under a stairwell, clean it out, add some fun lights and a bean bag. Let this be the place where your child can hang out and read a book. If it’s her own special spot, she may be more apt to sit there and read.
-Read outdoors. Who said reading could only be done inside? Read on the trampoline, under a tree, at the local playground or dozen of other places. The “new” environment can make reading more interesting, especially if it relates to the book.
-Read to a pet/stuffed animal. Do you have a dog, cat or fish? It can even be a stuffed animal. Children feel more important if they have someone (something) to read to. Encourage your child to sit near your pet (or your neighbor’s pet, if they say it’s okay) and read for 15 minutes.
-Let siblings read to one another. Everyone wants to feel special and accepted. What better way to build bonds between siblings than letting the older child read to the preschooler and the elementary school student read to his big brother? This way everyone gets in their reading minutes, and can share some good stories.
-Get books on CD’s. For younger kids there are books and CD’s packaged together so that your child to follow along in the book while listening to the stories. Some of the “big” kids’ books on CD are also available in a hardcover books (be sure to listen along at the beginning to make sure the words in the book do match the CD, as sometimes there is a differentiation). Letting your child follow along in a book is a great way to listen to the fluency while becoming comfortable with identifying the words.
-Rewards. Some children need a bit more encouragement and may need to have a sticker chart. Let him read his designated time allotment each day, place a sticker on the calendar and after your child meets his weekly goal, let him enjoy a homemade ice cream sundae or a walk around the block with Mom. The rewards do not need to be fancy, but can be something fun for the new reader to look forward to.
Finally, remember to praise your child for trying hard. Encouragement, genuine interest in your child’s learning and simple love and patience can go a long way in building a brighter, more confident child who maybe, might surprise you one day and actually read for the fun of reading.