I would like to start by saying I have two vastly different children. My son picked up reading at a very early age of four. By five he was reading fluently and by seven he could read anything and often did. My daughter on the other hand was a reluctant reader. Struggling still at seven to master simple phonics. By eight she started to read more fluently and now at nine is beginning to read novels. It's been a struggle with her. Lot of tears were shed on both sides. I spent many hours talking it out with my husband trying to figure out the best strategy to get her reading better. I even fell into the dreaded comparison trap. Why couldn't she read as well as her brother? Did she suffer from some sort of undiagnosed reading problem?
It has given me years to contemplate what reading has meant to me. In PS they often assigned the reading of novels and then picked them apart like distasteful plates of food. It seemed to me like a general waste of time. It made me dislike reading. As a young person I had little to no desire to crack open a book and read. The joy having been sucked out by Jack and Jill up the hill over and over in the early years also didn't help me any. The boredom suffered from painful classroom read alouds and contrived book reports made reading in general a unlikeable event.
I have been forced with my own children to reevaluate what reading means as an adult and conversely what I would like it to mean to my children. I have in large part used an unschooling approach to teaching my kids in the early years. I never purchased a boxed reading curriculum for either child. We used online Reading A-Z, Starfall, and lots of reading from childrens books at home. My son loved to read from the get go. He would be found reading books to his baby sister when they had time. I read to them night time stories everyday. I can't tell you how many times I read the 'Little Mermaid' to my daughter. I wanted to burn the book by the time she finally grew tired of it. When they went to bed I encouraged them to read to themselves. If they couldn't read I said looking at the pictures was the next best thing. Often I would find books in heaps in their rooms in the morning or a child sleeping on a pile of books like a dragon on it's horde.
Moving forward to now every night the kids take something to read with them to bed. They stay up far too late reading. I don't mind so much as long as they can still be wakeful the next morning as well. Now they are on the path to lifelong reading and are loving it. I have added in Exploring Literature from AGS Globe to our school days. It's covers genres, reading comprehension, and writing. What I like about it is it's getting the kids headed in the right direction of writing, something else I had taken a relaxed approach to in the early years.
So how can you achieve happy, avid readers too?
*Starting early on read to them everyday. Don't stop just because they know how to read. I read still to my kids at nine and eleven. Whatever topic they want now we will read, at least one hour a day I set aside. They don't watch tv shows and it becomes a loved form of entertainment. We have read through several book series since last June.
*Encourage older siblings to read to their younger siblings. Or kids can read to a pet or stuffed toy if they have no other siblings.
*Always when teaching a reader praise over criticize. Help them of course to work through words they don't know but never laugh at them. Remember if they are feeling stressed they aren't enjoying it. Put it away for the day. I actually stopped formal reading practice with my daughter for nearly four months. When we started again she was refreshed and more ready then before.
*Find readers and reading material that engage the child. Just because Charlottes Web is on your grade two reading list doesn't mean you have to read it. If you think your child won't be interested find what interests them and get some books about that.
*Don't do book reports! They suck the joy out reading. Should they learn to do them? Yes but not until after establishing their love for reading.
*Encourage them to take books to bed, in the vehicle, and buy new books as often as you can. You can easily find books at second hand shops, online classifieds, yard sales. You don't have to break the bank. Or you could even start a book swap with friends with kids the same age. Of course your local library is another way to get new books to read.
*Give books as gifts to your kids to show them that you think books are just as important as toys.
*Take them to browse the local bookstores.
*Show enthusiasm yourself for reading and books.
*Read to them some more even as they age.
*Don't limit your child to books only in their age bracket. I can't tell you how many adult books my son has read. Or how many we have kicking around in our bookshelves. Of course making sure they don't harbor bad language or other offensive materials would be good.
*Strew- leave books all over the house. We have books in the livingroom, bedrooms, classroom, occasionally the diningroom. Make the books you leave around appealing to pick up and peruse.
*Most of all have fun with books!
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