Mom to Mom
Five easy ways to help your kids become better readers
We’ve heard it over and over since our first child exited the womb: Read to your children. Every. Day. So we did. We read Goodnight Moon and One Fish Two Fish and books about fire trucks and Thomas the Train, and even (oh, help us!) Barney. And our children LOVED it (as did most of us!) … that warm and cozy time after baths when even the most rambunctious child would quiet to hear the familiar words spoken in Mommy’s soothing voice.
At some point, however, usually midway through grade school, children become polarized on the subject of reading. Many continue to crave the written word – exploring new worlds and ideas through stories. Some children don’t. For some it’s because reading doesn’t come easily, and what brings such joy to others may become a chore. For others, they just have too many other things they would rather be doing – playing baseball, swimming, building a LEGO set or having a root canal.
But the evidence is there: children who excel in school read, and they read a lot.
So what can you do if your child happens to be in the “don’t-love-to-read” category? You may not be able to turn him or her into a bookworm overnight, but here are a few easy ways to help your little one become a better reader:
1. Let him see you reading. It really does make a difference. The next time you send your clan off to do their requisite 30 minutes, grab Oprah’s latest pick and read along. It’s a win-win!
2. Help her find something she’s interested in reading. Let’s face it, none of us is a very good reader when reading is forced upon us. If your child is reading about something she loves, she’ll be much more likely to stick with it.
3. Make it fun! Reading is supposed to be enjoyable, and those of us who love it can’t understand how others don’t. There are many fun things you can do to bring a little pleasure into it. Have a reading picnic, go to the library in your pajamas or make a book train of all the books your child has read.
4. Don’t correct too much. A good rule of thumb is if your child seems to be getting the meaning of the context, don’t correct. If he misreads a word and it changes what the writer was conveying, it’s OK to gently suggest the correct word.
5. Listen to books on CD. I tell this to anyone who will listen, and I am generally met with the same questioning gaze. How do books on CD help children become better readers if they are only listening and not actually reading? First of all, it can help kids enjoy stories again, especially those struggling readers. But more important, when you are actually decoding, or looking at letters in print and trying to figure out what word those letters make, that is only one small (albeit important) part of reading. There are many other skills a child must master in order to become a proficient reader, such as making predictions, understanding cause and effect, identifying plot, characters, setting and theme, and making inferences. These skills can all be developed by listening to books. Give it a try and pick up a book on CD the next time you’re at the library. I recommend starting with something short and funny. Don’t be discouraged if your child is not an instant fan. It does take some concentration. Start off in small doses and gradually build up. And if he doesn’t like the book, try another.
Teaching your children to become strong readers allows them to excel in every area of their academic pursuits. What better gift can we give them than to change something (something they will do for the rest of their lives) from a chore to a pleasure? Children follow our lead – so lead them into exploring the worlds that words uncover from our minds and have fun doing it. I promise you won’t be sorry!
Jennifer Trannon is a former public-school teacher who’s currently staying home to take care of her three children. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.