Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Raising a Reader
I want to preface my blog post with a statement that I am not an expert. I am not an expert on anything. I never want to come across as someone who knows it all. I always feel like "experts" end up getting really humbled in the end. You know those parenting experts? The ones with no kids? Look at the kids we, I mean "they", end up with. :)
As a child, my parents would take me to the public library. I would leave with a stack of books. I often was found with my nose stuck in a book. Even now, I love to read a good book but I have to limit myself...once I start reading, it is very hard for me to stop. I tend to forget there is life going on around me...a house, chores, kids. That kind of stuff. So now I save big reading for trips, either airplane rides or long rides in the car.
I was thinking today about my kids. They are readers. Okay, only two are reading words at this point, but they all seem (at least at this point) to have a love for books. I would love to take credit for all of it, but I cannot. They have had wonderful teachers who have introduced them to the joy of reading. I would like to think that surely I have fostered that in some sense though. As a teacher and a mom, I thought I would share a few "raising readers" tips.
1. Read together. I would love to say, "Read daily with your child." And I can say that. However, I live in this very real life. It doesn't always happen. So I will just say, "When possible, read together." Even though the big kids read novels on their own, they still like for me to read out loud to them. For our youngest, reading is a big part of his bedtime routine unless he is exhausted. He loves to get a book (he even chooses his own).
2. Load up the bookshelves...if your child has a certain interest, pursue it through books. Our oldest son's bookshelves is full of books about sharks, presidents, and sports. Even when he was young, he had a big interest in sharks. So we bought a bunch of books, lots of different levels, on sharks. Our daughter's shelves are full of books about pets, fairies, and some popular characters like "Judy Moody" and "Junie B. Jones". Our other daughter loves the classics right now (Cat in the Hat, Green Eggs and Ham) as well as fairy tales. And our youngest son LOVES books with real photographs and touch and feel books.
3. Model. Mark and I are both pretty big readers. Like I said, I don't get to read full books often, but I am usually found reading a newspaper or a magazine throughout the day.
4. Invest in "easy reader" books. I remember when Child 1 was in first grade. He was reading, but I worried about whether he was reading enough. He just seemed to lack the confidence he needed (trust me, that has since passed). A dear friend of mine told me to buy the "easy readers". I went to the bookstore and bought a whole basket full. Of course, four kids will benefit from that one purchase. I will advise you to look through beginner reader books...you cannot trust their levels. You want simple but interesting sentences. You want good picture support. You want something that will interest your child.
5. Place books strategically. We have books all over the house. The kids all have bookshelves, as does the toy room. Our living room has a basket of books. And one of the best places we have found for books? The pockets of the car seats. When our youngest gets in the car, his first question is, "Book?" I usually give him a couple to look at. I have the older two clean out their "pockets" occasionally because they bring out new books but don't always take away the other ones...to the point of overflowing. I cannot tell you how many times we have gotten home and I had to tell Child 1 we were home. He was so involved in reading, he never noticed!
6. Treat books as a privilege. If one of the kids has a rough night, we actually will take away a book reading for the night. And believe it or not, it hurts them more than most consequences. We obviously don't want to do that all of the time, but we do hold it over heads in the evening...
7. Establish a quiet time. I have mentioned before that on the weekends and in the summer, we have a mandatory 2 hour "rest time". The two little ones sleep during that time. The big kids read. They don't have to sleep but they do have to be in their rooms and be quiet. (We do have some leeway for them...sometimes they hang out with Dad or color, etc.) Either way, they seem to do the most reading during this time period.
8. Seek out books. If your child is in school, he/she likely gets book orders. Book orders are a GREAT way to build up the library...good prices, wide selection. When the kids get an order, I give them a maximum I will pay then let them choose what to get. Other places to check: garage sales, consignment shops, half.com, book sales. And of course, the public library. We have a hard time getting there for some reason but when we do, the kids think it is the coolest place to be.
9. Make books easily accessible. Child 4's books are in baskets on a shelf in his room. He can go in and grab a book at any time. For the big kids, they have book "dummies" which are rulers. That way they can "mark their spot" on their bookshelves without losing it while they read, plus it keeps their shelves fairly neat.
10. Finally, encourage. We didn't let our oldest see the movie "Marley and Me" until he had read the book. Child 2 is reading Little House on the Prairie right now. Afterwards, I hope to show her some episodes of the T.V. show. She is also asking to visit Laura Ingalls Wilder's home...that is a hope for me to do with her sometime soon.
As I said, I am not an expert...and sometimes kids just struggle with learning to read. We may encounter that yet. But for now, I hope to continue to encourage my rising readers...