SummaryThe good news is that often young readers are not born, but made. No matter how old your child is…
Way back in the dark ages when I was young, the Internet did not exist and children’s programming was mainly limited to after school and Saturday mornings.
It was a simple time when bored or restless children were told to go play outside or to pick up a book… and they did. Today’s kids have more entertainment choices and less incentive to invest their time in reading for pleasure.
Reading is a skill that must be mastered, as opposed to the easy joy offered by plugging into the TV or computer.
With so much enticing technology around, how is a parent supposed to raise a reader today?
1. Young readers are not born, but made.
The good news is that often young readers are not born, but made. No matter how old your child is, there are steps that you can take to set him or her on the path to becoming a lifelong reader.
First, read early and often. During my pregnancies, I embraced the idea that the baby could hear my voice from within the womb.
With my first child I began reading Mother Goose rhymes aloud sometime in my second trimester, building it in as a rest time for myself. I felt the baby kicking with happiness whenever I did that!
Naturally, the subsequent babies were each party to story time as their siblings were read to.
Once the baby actually arrives, it’s never too early to start reading to him. Little ones love to cuddle! Settle with the baby in a comfy chair with a stack of children’s books and let him just hear your voice and enjoy the bright pictures.
It’s a great way to get him associating books with pleasure.
2. Keep books in your home.
Next, keep books in your home. Televisions and computers have prominent places in our houses. Books deserve the same treatment.
If you don’t already own one, invest in a small bookshelf (or ten) and start filling it with books. They don’t have to be expensive; paperbacks are okay, as are used bookstore finds.
Aim to collect some unabridged classics as well as some high quality newer books. You want to make it enticing for your child. If you’re not certain where to begin, seek the advice of a friendly librarian or bookstore owner.
You’ll find that most bookworms started becoming so as kids, and they really love to recommend books!
Give books as gifts for special occasions. If you write a personal message in the front, they can serve as wonderful mementos about the stages in your child’s life. My kids know to expect at least one book apiece from Mom each Christmas.
Put your books in public view also, either on the family bookshelf or one of your own. Make sure to let your child see you reading for enjoyment, and getting excited about books.
If you have any treasured books from your own childhood, they make great heirlooms to pass down.
3. Don’t be hung up on reading levels.
Once you’ve started reading aloud and gathering books, don’t be hung up on reading levels. The internet offers endless lists of books, with a suggested grade level for each book. Actually, there’s no need to make your child wait years to experience great literature.
It may be hard to imagine that a child who is struggling to read Hop on Pop by himself is ready to appreciate The Chronicles of Narnia, but many youngsters are.
Just as a toddler understands many more words than he can yet say, children can comprehend the plots of books that they are not yet capable of reading for themselves.
Keep reading aloud to your child even after he learns to read. Hearing complex words spoken helps him later to decipher those words on the page.
Taking away the burden of slowly sounding out words allows the child to focus on the plot and characters. Also, let’s face it… books for older children are just more interesting than easy readers. Kids need to know that there is a good reason to persevere and become proficient at reading.
4. Audio books & Libraries
Listening to recorded books is another great way to reap these benefits. My kids love to listen to books in the car, and I always keep a stack of them handy.
Don’t forget to take your child to the library. My family could not possibly afford to read all that we do without this amazing public resource. Start going there with your child when he is tiny, and it will be as familiar to him as going to Church or the grocery store as he grows.
Walk around with him while he’s little and help him to make his selections. Keep track of his favorite types of books and authors and look for more like them. Get a whole new stack every week and enjoy them at home.
Don’t forget to let him see you checking out some books for yourself too!
5. Read the same books as your older children.
Finally, make the effort to read the same books as your older children. When my oldest first started reading chapter books on his own, I realized that he still enjoyed discussing the books with me.
I would make sure to grab his book when he wasn’t reading it and catch up to his place. In that way we were able to discuss each chapter and get excited together as the plot unfolded.
I still do this with my children. Now that my oldest is enrolled in Seton’s challenging high school program, he is sometimes assigned books that he would not have picked out for himself.
By familiarizing myself with the books, I find that I am in a better position to discuss them with him. Along with the online book lectures, our discussions help him to keep focused on the important points of the books and gain the maximum enjoyment from them.
Despite the siren call of modern electronics, it is still possible to raise eager readers in today’s world.
By surrounding your children with quality books and making reading a part of your family lifestyle, you will make it easy for your children to pick up the habit of reading.
Happily for them, it is a habit that they need never outgrow!