For some children, reading is a favorite pastime that they can spend hours doing. Visiting the library or bookstore is an opportunity to find new books to get excited about. For other children, reading is not an activity they willingly choose to do during their spare time. It can become a source of contention in some households. To help curb the battles over reading, consider a few important points.
It is essential that children are provided with reading materials that are an appropriate level. Trying to read a book that is too difficult can be a very frustrating experience! Very young children may be at a stage where reading is a shared experience, either with you reading aloud to them or the two of you taking turns chiming in during a familiar book. This time spent reading together is valuable and is a precursor to independent reading.
As children become more proficient readers, it continues to be important that they are provided with texts that are an appropriate level. Children pass through different stages as they become more skilled readers. For books children are reading at home, it is beneficial that they err on the side of “too easy” versus “too hard.” While educators will conduct guided reading sessions with their students aimed at their instructional level, reading at home should be more fun, easygoing activity. Reading at home provides opportunities for children to work on their fluency and to develop a love of reading.
Keep in mind that reading can involve many different types of texts. Young readers may enjoy simple, patterned stories or books with rhyming words. CVC words are a great way for young children to start learning how to rhyme, using words with common spelling patterns. Beginning readers may also enjoy wordless books, which are filled with pictures that tell a story and encourage many early reading behaviors.
As children grow in their reading proficiency, there are many more types of texts that may pique their interest. Visit the library or bookstore so your child can see all the options that are available. While some children may love more traditional novels, others may prefer graphic novels and comic books. Some children may find a magazine that they love to read. Some may love using an e-reader. Joke books may spark your child’s interest. Proficient readers may find a website or blog they are interested in. Keep an open mind and think beyond traditional books when you’re trying to spark an interest in reading. If your little one likes to read the list when you’re at the grocery store together, that counts as reading, too!
To encourage reading at home, it may be helpful to set up a consistent routine with your child. There may be a time during the day, such as before dinner or right before bedtime when it’s most convenient to read. It may also be helpful to have a specific area in the house where your child reads. For some, this could be curled up in the bed where it’s quiet and peaceful. For others, sitting at the kitchen table while you’re preparing dinner or doing dishes may be the perfect spot to read. Make sure there are lots of book choices for your child. This will help avoid the excuse that there’s nothing to read!
The other factor to consider when setting up a reading routine is the length of time your child will spend reading. Very young children may spend five minutes reading with you. As they age and become more proficient readers, this amount of time can increase. For example, you may set the expectation that your 9-year old reads for 20 minutes every night. If you’re not sure what to expect, talk to your child’s teacher for guidance. The goal is to make reading become a habit.
To promote a love of reading, consider setting a positive example yourself. If reading is an activity only your child has to do, he may view it as a chore. Be a role model by letting your child see you reading the newspaper, a magazine, websites, or novels. Highlight other times when reading is an important part of your day, such as when you follow a recipe or read your mail. Help your child see that reading is not just something kids do. Adults do it, too!
For very resistant readers, you may consider implementing an incentive program. For example, allow your child to stay up 10 minutes past her bedtime so she can read. Or, allow your child to trade in a chore so she can read instead. Young children may be motivated to keep a log of their reading to see how many books they can read. Perhaps there will be a celebration when they have reached a certain goal. While it’s ideal that children are intrinsically motivated to read, for those who are simply not interested, you may have to get more creative with the inspiration.