You did everything to help your child develop a love of reading. You purchased manuals. You began reading to your baby the day you came home from the hospital. Your child teethed on plastic versions of The Runaway Bunny and Brown Bear. You were determined to have a child who loved to read! What happened?
Many parents understand the need to create an environment that fosters their children’s love of reading. They want their young reader to experience the enchantment found in the journey through the pages of a book. They realize children who read often develop a larger vocabulary, write more proficiently and generally succeed better in school. Then, just when children can begin to open their own doors to amazing adventures, experience new places and develop a taste for a variety of reading genres, many lose interest in reading. What causes this lack of enthusiasm, complacent attitude or, worst of all, dislike for reading? Here are some reasons to consider:
Many parents stop reading bedtime stories once their child is old enough to read. There is a strong correlation, however, between the amount of time children are read to and their enthusiasm for reading on their own.
There is immense pressure from state and federal legislation to raise test scores at all costs. Many educators feel pressed to trade time spent creating an enjoyable reading environment for time teaching to the test. With this comes a myriad of worksheets, flashcards and tedious rote exercises. Students do less real reading and focus instead on the bits and pieces of “learning to read.” This can cause reading to become laborious and uninteresting.
Also, as children get older homework and extracurricular activities often take up more and more time. It’s easy to put reading on the back burner.
So, what can you do to increase your child’s interest in reading?
- Inform the teacher and principal you value reading aloud and other meaningful classroom experiences.Parents have an enormous influence in their children’s school and many teachers are already concerned with the lack of opportunities to provide interesting and thought-provoking literature.
- Read to your child regularly. Even older children enjoy hearing books read aloud. Don’t read to your child just at bedtime. I know a mother who read chapter books to her children as the family drove cross-country for their annual summer vacation. Reading aloud develops vocabulary, enhances comprehension and encourages independent reading.
- Encourage reading for pleasure.Kids are more apt to read if they are excited about the books. Let your child select books and periodicals to read. Check out book clubs, garage sales, thrift stores and, of course, don’t forget the library. Remember to let the children see you reading for pleasure.
- Minimize interruptions when listening to your child read. Reading for enjoyment should not be a trial and the more you interfere with your child’s reading, the less enjoyable it becomes. When your child makes a mistake, allow time for self-correction. Children who consistently rely on someone else to make corrections may not learn to correct themselves. If the error is minor—”a” for “the”—or doesn’t change the meaning of the story, it isn’t necessary to disrupt the reading. These types of errors actually indicate your child comprehends what is being read. Too many corrections can compromise comprehension by disrupting the child’s flow.
- Suggest multiple ways to figure out a word. When your child comes to an unknown word, recommend some ways they might figure it out. Ask, “What would make sense there?” (Sometimes it’s painfully obvious.) You also might suggest they read to the end of the sentence and then go back and reread. This is my favorite strategy and it is amazing how many times it’s successful. Of course you can also encourage sounding it out, looking for smaller words within the word or “chunking it,” but it’s important to note that many words can’t be sounded out. Effective readers combine meaning-making strategies and phonics.
No matter what—keep reading enjoyable!Most reading is done silently, so don’t insist your child read everything aloud. While it’s OK to have children occasionally read aloud—especially an enjoyable story, poem or song—silent reading fosters longer, more pressure-free reading. Remember, if your goal is to instill a love of reading in your child, don’t turn potential pleasure into a chore.
Rene’ Mendel Lebsock is a classroom teacher, reading specialist and university instructor. She is currently teaching language and literacy courses in teacher education at Fresno Pacific University. She holds a master’s degree in reading, as well as a reading specialist and multiple subject teaching credential.