Whether you have your own children or teach in a classroom, you may come to a point where you want or need to help children read. Whether you are teaching them how to read their very first letters and words or motivating them to participate in a book club or reading contest, guiding children’s reading habits is an exciting and meaningful endeavor. Of course, if you are unfamiliar with reading theory or how to get kids to pick up a book when they would rather sit in front of a computer screen or play outside, the following tips may be of assistance in preparing you to help children read.
1. Set the example.
Don’t expect your children to read unless you, the parent, do it too. There are plenty of exceptions to this principle, but you have a better chance of getting the children to read if you appear to value reading and do it on your own. Let the kids see you read at regular times, such as after dinner or before bed. Turn off the television and encourage everyone to spend a half hour reading a magazine or book, and take the lead in doing it as well.
2. Keep mind-healthy reading material available.
Kids may not go out of their way to find or ask for suitable reading materials. Consider subscribing to an age-appropriate children’s magazine or purchase a book series that will keep your kids interested and engaged. You can buy books and magazines inexpensively at thrift stores and yard sales, as well as from online bookstores. Place the books and magazines in neat, easy-to-reach stacks near the kids’ beds or play areas within their viewing area.
- Take kids to places where books abound.
In addition to shopping for books at discount stores, bargain bins, and online shops, visit library sales, garage sales, and book trade shows where you can pick up good deals, and kids can get an eyeful of exposure to books they might enjoy. When they see the range of topics and genres available, they may be more likely to find something they want to read.
- Talk about interesting books.
Help children read by making book-talk part of your dinnertime or travel time discussion. You can mention a character or plot twist you enjoyed from a book you’ve recently read, and ask the kids to talk about something they have read lately, too. You can even host a monthly dinner where each family member gives a short report about a favorite recent book, along with perhaps a picture of the author and a list of three or four other books the author has written. Point out billboards, TV and magazine ads, and posters that promote reading in a positive way.
- Organize a summer family reading program.
In order to help children read, many community libraries sponsor summer family reading programs that you and the kids can join. Take the books to a shady spot at the park or on the back porch before dusk to share a communal reading time that will provide a shared leisurely experience for the entire family. Enjoy with a glass of lemonade or fresh fruit.
- Coordinate classroom-reading assignments with your child’s teacher.
Ask your children’s teachers about their classroom reading programs to find out which books and themes will be used. Consider supplementing the classroom reading activities with a home program of events, such as a video (if available) based on one of the books used at school. Or have fun with a dress-up night with each child assuming the persona of an author or character. You can stage scenes from a beloved book or play to bring the story to life.
- Help your child write a book.
Putting together a personal book could foster more interest in reading other books. You can make a spiral-bound blank “book” for your child to write a story in. Or you can set up a computer-writing program that will let your son or daughter type a story. There are even black bound books you can purchase for writing your own story.
- Visit museum displays of unusual books.
Middle school age children and older can appreciate museum displays of famous books that are either permanent in your community or temporarily available. When kids see the fuss made about old or special books, they may be more apt to appreciate and enjoy reading.
- Take turns reading aloud and acting roles.
Reading poems, dialogue, and narrative can bring words on the page to life in new and meaningful ways. Show children how to use inflection, tone, and pitch in their voices to act out various characters. Listen to different recordings of the same speech, for example, by one of Shakespeare’s tragic heroes, and ask the kids to discuss differences and similarities in the delivery. Or record your children reciting one of the book’s passages and play it back, discussing the way it sounds on the recording.
- Experiment with different types of books.
To help children read on a regular basis and at various ages, you may want to try different kinds of books. For example, an audio book is a great way to play a story while in the car or getting ready for bed. An e-book is usually shorter than a print volume, and may be easier to read for that reason.
To help children read, you will need plenty of books, a good imagination, and motivation. Reading opens the mind to new experiences and lays the foundation for fertile implantation of new ideas and creative images.
Many skills can be learned through reading, such as a foreign language, computer tutorials, and how-to processes. Good readers often make good writers, and all successful companies prefer hiring people with effective reading experience who can quickly and correctly process large amounts of information. Conversely, those with poor reading skills frequently struggle with white-collar jobs and can end up being demoted if the boss finds out