We continue our celebration of National Read Across America Day (it’s a full week for us!) with the following ideas to promote reading in your home:
Written by Contributing Writer, Sarah Farthing
1. Read aloud to them.
It’s never too early to start, there is no good reason to stop and you can’t possibly do it too much! Even when your kids are proficient readers, there are always books above their reading level that are still appropriate to be shared, and some stories are just plain more meaningful when you read them aloud together.
2. Make reading part of your routine.
When reading is part of your family’s routine, it becomes a child’s healthy habit. It is as natural and satisfying as a meal. Whether you choose morning books, naptime books, afternoon books or bed time books, when certain times of the day have always included reading, it doesn’t feel like reading is an infringement on time otherwise spent.
3. Use your library.
If your son loves construction or your daughter is obsessed with bugs, I challenge you to walk in your door holding 30 books about the subject they live and breathe. Watch their excitement for reading explode before your eyes and note the impression your gesture made on him or her. Visiting the library is wonderful for kids, as we’ve discussed before on The Good Stuff Guide: It’s Library Time! (It’s Heidi here: make sure you read the comments section of this post – you will cry with laughter, I promise. Oh, and there are fantastic ideas in there too. Sorry for interrupting!) Reserving books from your home or work computer has its place, too; you can make quick work of refreshing your home library by choosing books by subject or author from your library’s website and running the quick errand to pick them up when they’re in.
4. Change the way you read.
Use silly voices, make faces, exaggerate your tone and let your own enthusiasm and suspense show. Don’t rush it. Savor the story and the illustrations if applicable. Children’s book author Sue Fliess (www.suefliess.com) finds that “…stopping every now and then during a story at suspenseful parts to ask [her] kids what they think will happen gets them excited and keeps them paying attention too.” When you do these things you are modeling good reading and encouraging reading comprehension for your listener.
5. Get your kids hooked on stories.
Help your kids appreciate a good story. Children’s librarian and storyteller Nancy Schimmel (www.sisterschoice.com) recommends using “Family stories, stories about themselves when they were younger, made-up stories, or easy to tell standards like The Three Bears…or Little Red Riding Hood…” to help get kids hooked. Grandparents, aunts and uncles are a good resource to tap for help with this!
6. Find reading opportunities everywhere.
Kids naturally want to help with adult tasks from a young age. Instead of pointing to the buttons on your dishwasher, washer or dryer for your little one to push, try spelling the words out and have them find the right one. They will get used to looking for letter combinations. When you’re baking together, examine the back of the cake mix box with your child. Ask where they think it explains how many eggs to add. Knowing how to navigate instructions like that is a great pre-reading skill. So is brand and logo recognition! In the car you can ask what stores they see as you pass.
7. Demonstrate that reading is valued in your home.
Do this by making sure that books are plentiful and readily accessible in different rooms of your home. Participate in Scholastic Book Fairs to build your library and help your child’s school. Respect books by taking good care of them and handing down outgrown titles to younger children. Give books as gifts, within your family and to others. As Shara Lawrence-Weiss, owner of Personal Child Stories (www.personalchildstories.com) points out, “Books are a special gift. Make sure your kids know that you believe that as much as they need to.” Shara encourages parents to model reading in their homes. “If they see you enjoying a book, they will be more likely to pick one up and read it.”
8. Help your child make their own book.
I have never met a child that isn’t full of stories! Use a notebook and basic art supplies to let them write, or help them dictate, their very own story. Add illustrations too! Susan Kapuscinski (www.makinkbooks.com) notes that, for kids, “Telling their stories and expressing their feelings makes them writers which in turn gives them a new appreciation as readers.” Visit www.makingbooks.com for information and tutorials.
9. Use technology.
Karen Robertson, author of the ‘Treasure Kai’ Series (www.treasurekai.com) touts the success of using book apps for iPhones, iPads, etc… with her sons. “…the really good ones engage kids on many levels that regular books can’t like; tactile (touching things in the book to make things happen), auditory (with narration, sound effects and music), visually (with illustrations and animation).” Use websites like www.abcmouse.com and www.starfall.com when your child is learning computer skills. Set them up with an e-mail address and give their spelling words to grandparents so they can drop a few in a message to their grandchild!
10. Use books to research their questions.
Children have virtually everything still to learn about their world and their capacity for understanding expands exponentially from year to year. Resist the urge to Google everything and instead agree to “look it up,” in the old sense of the phrase, and follow through! Go to an atlas, a globe, the non-fiction section of your favorite bookstore or local library and teach them the art of finding just what they’re looking for. They’ll need that skill someday and in the physical process of finding their own answers, they’ll realize that reading opens up the world to them. If they can read well, they can teach themselves anything.
How do you engage your children to read? What works at your home?
Fliess, Sue. Home – Sue Fliess. Web. 23 Feb. 2011. <http://www.suefliess.com/>.
Schimmel, Nancy. Nancy Schimmel’s Children’s Music, Animal Songs & Science Songs. Web. 23 Feb. 2011. <http://www.sisterschoice.com/>.
Lawrence-Weiss, Shara. Personal Child Stories. 23 Feb. 2011 http://personalchildstories.com/.
Kapuscinski Gaylord, Susan. Making Books with Children. Web. 23 Feb. 2011. <http://www.makingbooks.com/>.
Robertson, Karen. Treasure Kai. Web. 23 Feb. 2011. <http://www.treasurekai.com/>.
Hill, Lisa. School Tech Talk. 23 Feb. 2011 <http://schooltechtalk.com/>.
Bariese, Christina. Kids and Reading. 23 Feb. 2011. Personal communication.