Reading is not merely a skill; it’s a gateway to a world of imagination, knowledge, and empathy. As a parent, fostering a love for reading in your child is one of the greatest gifts you can provide. Here are some practical strategies to help your child develop strong reading skills and, more importantly, a passion for the written word.
Create a Reading-Friendly Environment: Cultivating a reading-friendly environment at home is the first step towards instilling a love for books. Set up a cozy reading nook with comfortable seating, good lighting, and a variety of age-appropriate books. Make sure books are easily accessible, encouraging spontaneous exploration.
Lead by Example: Children often emulate the behavior of those around them. Demonstrate the joy of reading by letting your child see you immersed in a book. Share your reading experiences and discuss the stories you love. This not only models positive reading behavior but also fosters a sense of shared interest.
Read Aloud Together: Reading aloud is a powerful tool for developing literacy skills. Start reading to your child from a young age, and as they grow, encourage them to read aloud to you. This not only improves their reading fluency but also provides an opportunity for bonding and shared enjoyment of stories.
Explore Various Genres: Introduce your child to a diverse range of genres and topics. Whether it’s fiction, non-fiction, mysteries, or fantasy, exposing them to different styles of writing expands their literary horizons. Consider their interests and incorporate books that align with their hobbies.
Visit the Library Regularly: The library is a treasure trove of books waiting to be discovered. Make regular trips to the library a family affair. Allow your child to choose books that capture their interest, fostering a sense of autonomy in their reading journey. Libraries often host storytelling sessions and other literary events, adding an extra layer of excitement.
Use Technology Wisely: Leverage technology to enhance the reading experience. Educational apps, audiobooks, and interactive e-books can complement traditional reading. However, ensure that screen time is balanced and that the focus remains on the joy of reading rather than passive consumption.
Encourage Questions and Discussions: Foster a curious mindset by encouraging your child to ask questions about the stories they read. Engage in discussions about characters, plot twists, and moral lessons. This not only enhances comprehension but also deepens their connection to the material.
Be Patient and Supportive: Every child develops reading skills at their own pace. Be patient and supportive, celebrating small victories and progress. Avoid putting undue pressure on your child, as negative associations with reading can hinder the development of a love for books.
Celebrate Reading Milestones: Acknowledge and celebrate your child’s reading milestones. Whether it’s completing a challenging book or mastering a new set of vocabulary, recognizing their achievements reinforces a positive attitude towards reading.
Connect Reading to Real-Life Experiences: Help your child see the relevance of reading in everyday life. Whether it’s following a recipe, reading street signs, or exploring information online, connecting reading to real-life experiences reinforces its practical importance.
Helping your child with reading is not just about building a fundamental skill; it’s about nurturing a lifelong love for stories and knowledge. By creating a supportive environment, modeling positive reading behavior, and exploring the vast literary landscape together, you lay the foundation for a future where reading is not a chore but a source of joy and enrichment.
Remember the unique smell of books and paper that greeted you the moment you stepped in the library? And the shelves and shelves of stories both real and fictional, promising hours of distraction from “real” life? How about your favorite book store? So many possibilities to choose from, it was hard to decide. And there’s the feel of a book in your hands, the weight and substance of it. No batteries or electronic cables to contend with. No blue light burning into your retinas, disturbing your sleep and fracturing your ability to concentrate.
If your kids are becoming digital zombies, addicted to the instant gratification offered by their various “plugged in” devices, it may be time to return to the joys of reading an actual physical book.
It Started with Email
Back in the early days of email, it was a special little thrill to hear “You’ve got mail!” and to see that the mailbox flag was up and an envelope was peeking out. Paper mail was boring. Or at least it was common. Cards, letters, announcements, invitations, bills, advertisements… they were ordinary. Gradually all of these communiques stopped arriving in the U.S. mail and were all delivered “paperless” and “digitally”. We’ve come full circle and are now at the point where an actual handwritten note or letter that appears in your physical mailbox (when you remember to check it) is an unexpected delight. When someone takes the time to actually hand write something, fold it up, stuff it in an envelope, buy postage and mail it to you, you treasure it more than a dozen e-cards that took 10 seconds and a few mouseclicks to send.
A similar transformation has happened with books. In the first 10 months of 2020, ebook sales registered nearly a billion dollars. With a “b”. Audiobooks have also increased tremendously and in the same time period reached sales of $56.9 million. Downloaded audio is ten times that amount at $553.6 million.
The good news is that physical paper books, both hardback and paperback, are still outselling their digital counterparts with hardback revenues for the first 10 months of 2020 at $2.6 billion, and paperbacks at $2.1 billion.
The Effect of the Pandemic and Online School
Many families have struggled with balancing computer time and other activities, especially since quarantine and lockdowns are severely restricting options for kids. Adding to that, many children are required to spend hours a day in front of a computer, tablet, or other digital device instead of attending school in person. Parents who have been trying to limit their child’s time online are now finding that they have to force their children to spend more time online.
A study by the National Institutes of Health found that children who spent more than two hours a day using screens scored lower on language and thinking tests. Some children who spent more than seven hours a day of screen time actually experienced physical changes to their brain structure, affecting critical thinking and reasoning.
According to EdSource, children ages 8-12 in the U.S. spend four to six hours a day watching or using screens on average, and teens spend up to nine hours. This is exacerbated with additional requirements for school and homework that has to be completed online, due to school closings.
Offering an Alternative
Children who are oversaturated with screen time need a break. If your local library is open, a weekly visit is a free way to introduce (or reintroduce) the joy of reading a physical book to your children, regardless of age. If that’s not an option where you live, you can always contact your local bookstore and order books that they can ship to you or you can pick up curbside. A quick online search reveals that there are many sources for discount and bargain books you can order. There are even sources for free books for kids. This list from The Penny Hoarder includes free physical books, PDF copies you can download and print, and ebooks.
The Little Free Library is the world’s largest book-sharing movement and now has over 100,000 book-sharing boxes worldwide. Their motto is “Take a Book – Share a Book” and they encourage book-sharing in all types of communities. To see if there is one near you, check their world map. These little library boxes in Albuquerque, New Mexico are made from converted newspaper vending boxes, built by Bob Shipley, with instructions on how to do it yourself. Many communities also informally set up shelves and racks in public areas that encourage the same kind of book-sharing as the Little Free Library, and a phone call to your city or Chamber of Commerce could point you to their locations.
Encouraging a love of reading is a gift you can give to your child that will pay off their whole life, and giving them a break from the digital onslaught will benefit their minds, their eyesight, and their psychological health. For a list of the benefits of reading a printed book as opposed to digital, check out this list from ReviewThis. This gift-giving season, consider adding to or starting a library of physical books for your child. And yourself!
Is your child an avid reader? Maybe you have a reluctant reader, or a child who has some difficulty with reading. Every summer, teachers encourage their students to keep reading, and in some schools, the lists they make are based on the books they will be discussing next school year. These lists differ from school to school, and you can usually find them on your school website.
We’ve put together a list of summer reading lists for you from a variety of sources. The links below include a great diversity of reading material both fiction and non-fiction, for every grade level. Most of these books are available at your local library, local bookstores, can be ordered online, or come in audio book format to listen to.
Help your child find books they are interested in, find a comfy spot where they can enjoy reading, and enjoy some quiet time yourself!
1. Scholastic Books 2020 Read-a-Palooza Summer Reading Challenge Book List
Voted on by 12,500 school children from all over the United States, this list is published by the International Literacy Association and the Children’s Book Council. It is organized by age group and format: beginning readers (kindergarten to grade two), young readers (grades three to four), and advanced readers (grades five to six).
Here are some free activities for your kids to enjoy this summer so they can keep learning without feeling like it’s “school”: