How Do We Encourage Our Kids to Read?

I cannot beat this drum long enough or hard enough.  Reading to our kids and using audiobooks is an important tool to develop understanding of vocabulary and language.  It is never wasted effort.  Please refer to my 8/24/17 post for an application to audio books through Learning Ally.

The following is excerpted from a Washington Post Article on 8/28/17 by Kim Salt.

Read your own book: When was the last time you sat down in your living room — right there, among the toys, the chaos, the mess, the children themselves — and read your own book for pleasure? If you’re rolling your eyes right now, you’re not alone. But put aside your skepticism and give it a shot.

“Children are generally extraordinarily curious and eager to read when they feel sufficiently motivated,” says Erika Christakis, an early childhood educator and author of “The Importance of Being Little.” “It’s up to the adults to create environments at school and at home that ignite those impulses.” That means, in part, reading yourself. Also, putting away your screen. Why would children be motivated “if every time they look up from a book, a parent is glued to a smartphone?” asks Christiakis.

The bottom line: If kids see you read books for pleasure, they are more likely to do so, too. Also, you get to read a book!

Read aloud: “Remember, a child is never too old to be read a story. And you are never too busy to listen to a story read aloud by a child,” says John Schumacher, a.k.a. Mr. Schu, ambassador of school libraries for Scholastic Book Fairs. When you read to children aloud, says James Trelease, author of the venerated “Read-Aloud Handbook,” you are not only informing them, bonding with them and entertaining them, you are also “advertising the pleasures of reading.” Trelease, who read to his own children until they were in ninth grade, adds that hearing a book increases comprehension and builds vocabulary: “If you’ve never heard a word, you’ll never say it, you’ll never write it and you’ll never read it.”

Make library visits a part of kids’ routines: Librarians and teachers are the most common source for books-for-fun advice, according to the most recent Scholastic Kids & Reading Report. Even if kids are too shy to ask for help, who knows what great titles they might find just wandering through the shelves? (If you’re concerned about a book’s appropriateness, consult the librarian or check the Common Sense Media site.)

Let kids choose books freely: “Research shows that when kids get to choose their reading, they read more,” says Karen MacPherson, the children’s and teen services coordinator for the Takoma Park Maryland Library. According to one often-cited study, roughly 80 percent of children involved said the book they liked most was the one they had selected on their own.

Encourage kids to re-read books: “Young readers shouldn’t necessarily be pushed into trying something new at home,” Christakis says. “One of the best readers I know spent her childhood reading the ‘Little House’ book series in its entirety and then re-reading the books from start to finish all over again. She must have done this cycle 10 or 15 times, occasionally taking a break to read the ‘Harry Potter’ books. There are many worse ways to spend your childhood.”

Allow kids to read at their level, not the one you brag to your friends about: “Adults tend to foist some of their reading anxieties on kids, which is counterproductive,” Christakis says. “Parents of early readers often push their children to read texts that are simply too hard. Even reading a book at 95 percent accuracy (missing or not recognizing 5 percent of the words) is surprisingly distracting and demoralizing,” she says. “Families should encourage kids to pick just-right books that are really comfortable for them and don’t cause anxiety or a sense of slogging through.”

It’s not just about storybooks: A cookbook is a book, too, MacPherson points out. So are comic books and fun reference books like the Guinness Book of World Records and “Ripley’s Believe It or Not.” Even flipping through a magazine, an almanac, encyclopedia or dictionary (which has the added benefit of teaching kids how to alphabetize), can be a fun way of exploring books.

Open your family’s ears to audiobooks: Whether you’re on a long car ride or just hanging out at home, turn on an audiobook and fill those moments with a story. Audiobooks offer many of the same benefits as reading aloud, says Trelease — feeding vocabulary and stretching attention spans among them.

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