Monday, February 8, 2016

Raising Readers


Because I've always been a fan of books and reading, I was hopeful that my (future) children would follow in my footsteps.  When the girls were babies, I anticipated the day when our "quiet" time would consist of independent reading.  I imagined all of us sprawled across blankets and chairs by the ocean, warmed by the sun, with books in our hands.  Or on chilly winter afternoons, wrapped in quilts, reading quietly to ourselves.  The initial chaos of three little ones has faded and we have experienced some of these moments.

I don't know if you can really raise kids to be readers.  Some of it has to be genetic.  Everyone is different and if it is difficult for you to read, you most likely won't be interested in picking up a book.  I realized early on that forcing the girls to read wasn't the way to go, so we parented in a manner by which we hoped to foster the joys of reading.  In our case, it was somewhat easy in that the girls prefer reading to math.  Whether they enjoyed reading or not, I also wanted to ensure that they respected the importance of reading.  So when their teachers told them that they should be reading for at least xx minutes each night, I made sure that they were reading for at least xx minutes each night.

Here are some of the ways in which we have encouraged our girls to read:

  • Up until they began to read on their own, we read to them every night.
  • As they began to sound out words and read on their own, we would sit with them one on one each night to listen and help when needed.  I am not a patient person and this phase was not an enjoyable one for me.  I was excited to watch them learn to read but I had to constantly bite my tongue so as not to blurt out the words.
  • Encourage reading on the weekends and during the summer months when school isn't in session.
  • Ensure that they have books to read that are at the appropriate reading level.  If books are too difficult, it can be discouraging and kids can become frustrated.
  • Assist them in looking up words they don't know in the dictionary.  We actually use my old paper dictionaries from when I was in school.
  • We all have library cards and visit the library when our book supply is low.  Never say no to a library visit.
  • Lead by example.   

Years and years ago, well before I had children, a coworker of mine told me how she read books before her son read them in order to ensure the material was appropriate or to be able to explain certain things should things need an explanation.  Granted, at the time, Harry Potter was all the rage and I thought that maybe she just wanted to read Harry Potter.  Now that I have kids, I can't imagine doing this.  In an ideal world, maybe, but there just aren't enough hours in the day, especially with three at the same reading level.  Allie is currently reading I Am Malala, the young readers edition, while I am reading the adult version.  The timing of that just sort of worked out as I had mine on hold with the library.  She's a little young to be reading it but it was in the Scholastic book flyer that supposedly contains age appropriate books and she was very interested in it.  By reading it at the same time, I can answer questions and we've been able to discuss portions of Malala's story.  Emily's in line to read it next.


Caroline Porter said...

Wonderful. I teach college-level English and am amazed at the number of kids who have never read a book for pleasure. It's always the voracious readers who are able to quickly make connections and are able to write clearly. Not to mention what it does for their imaginations, personalities, and capacity for empathy. Good for you and great for them!

Englishrose said...

Let them try Harry Potter if they show an interest. My now 6th grader read the first one in first grade and by half way through second grade had finished the others. The problem has been and still is finding age appropriate books for their reading levels - they are boys, 12 and 14, they read for the love of it but both read between 9th and 13th level, they maxed out. They have incredible vocabularies, are voracious readers but books which are their reading levels often are aimed at older kids/young adults. Good luck with your reading adventures with the girls. Once a reader, always a reader.

MandyE (Twin Trials and Triumphs) said...

I have my old dictionary, too, and I love seeing our girls use it. So glad it surfaced not too long ago!

DaddyBites said...

I don't know about genetic, but a parent definitely has to read their own books in front of the kids, to normalize the activity, same as playing a sport so the kids decide to play.

Reading is SO important as a source of education and opening up one's mind. I can't imagine a life without books.


Courtney said...

Is The Summer I Saved the World in 65 Days on your list or the girls? I read that and enjoyed it a lot. It does have some teen romance in it though if that is on the girls' list.

Sarah said...

I've asked them if they want to read Harry Potter (they know a little bit what it's about) and they haven't been interested.

We picked up The Summer book at the bookstore in the 3-6th (ish) grade area. No one has read it yet. We had gift cards and bought a bunch of books. Thanks for the heads up. Maybe I should read that one first!