Inspiring A Reader
What do you do when your child would rather watch TV or play games than read a book?
This was the question I pondered as I began my quest teaching my youngest son to read over 20 years ago. We had shared books together long before he could walk, yet this head strong little munchkin wanted me to read to HIM. He didn’t want to take the time to learn “big” words as he called them.
There was no “Google” or “Amazon” back then, so I headed to the library; a place we spent a lot of time. I scoured magazines, videos, and books looking for the secret; the key to motivating this child who wanted to do everything his way.
While skimming the book covers I came across an interesting title, “Read to Me: Raising Kids Who Love to Read.” The words READ TO ME, jumped out with an exclamation point. I had heard my little Sammy, or Hamster, as we used to call him, tell me with exasperation in his voice virtually every day, “I don’t want to read mom, you read to me.”
"Read to Me," was such an easy read that I practically inhaled its contents in one afternoon sitting. I thought to myself, "Sounds practical, let’s see if it works on this child!"
While the book was easy to understand, I knew I had to do the work. I had to read the book and then apply its principles.
One caveat I must divulge, your relationship with your child will depend on the one you have with yourself.
How is this possible?
Children are a reflection of their environment. They not only feel your emotions; they will eventually model them too. If you are a patient and calm teacher, in most cases, they will be calm and receptive to your offering. If you are impatient, your child will sense it, and be impatient too. Children know if you care and how serious you are about the attention and communication you are sharing.
Why Is It Important Your Child Become a Reader and Lover of Books?
Reading to young children increases IQ. It is well known that children who love to read do better in school and life in general.
"The best predictors of success for children are a healthy start at birth and healthy development in the early years." - The Annie E. Casey Foundation
How Can You Inspire a Lasting Love of Reading?
Be the Change You Wish to See
Be a good role model for your child. Read yourself, as often as possible. If you aren’t an avid reader, or perhaps you cannot read, visit your local library and explore resources for help and guidance. Peruse the instructional videos and resources at the end of this article. You'll find videos to guide you through the process of sharing books with your child.
Turn off the television. Children learn by example. Limit technology regardless of your child’s age, especially until they have mastered reading. TV can be addictive and can brainwash a young, impressionable mind. Television advertising is ruthless in its direct advertising and manipulation of children in regards to values and beliefs. Monitor your child’s television viewing; its quality of content is even more important than the quantity of time spent watching. American media deceptively markets junk food, consumer products, biased ethics and opinions to children.
“Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.” -Sir Richard Steele
Read to Your Child from the Earliest Age
Create a “story time” each day and make it a ritual. Make books a part of your life. While bedtime is a perfect time to wind down with a soothing book, almost every moment can be an opportunity to read and teach. Buy board books and cloth books for very young children, carry them with you in diaper bags, your purse, and wherever you go. Reading and cuddling together will help create a bond that you share and associate with reading. Any quiet, unhurried time can be “story/cuddle time.” Read early and often.
Read Books They Love and Want to Read
Here’s the secret, the key, the foundation from which to build your child’s lifelong desire to read: Read books that interest your child.
Let them pick out the books. Okay, maybe not ALL of them, but most of them. My Sammy introduced me to the wonderful world of insects, spiders, amphibians and reptiles. You haven’t lived until you’ve awakened to a bath tub full of salamanders or pant pockets filled with baby toads! One Fall we invited a mother orb weaver spider to spend the frigid Minnesota winter inside our home. With no bugs to eat, her desperation obliged her to crawl down from her web and eat cat food from a spoon.
Your child’s interests will open worlds you may not even realized existed. Above all, encourage fun, learning should never be a burden. And never a fight or a struggle. If it isn’t fun they won’t want to learn to read. The classics are great. But if your child doesn’t want to read them you’ll both experience needless suffering. Your ultimate goal is to spark enthusiasm so they will get hooked on reading forever!
Speaking from personal experience I understand that some children must be met with a bit of psychology. Compromise and cooperation come to mind, others may call it bribery. Regardless of your methods, approach it with a kind and loving heart.
Of course if they’re babies, or preschoolers, you will want age appropriate books. Most libraries will supply you with a list of books children should read by a certain age. I’m not saying those book titles are carved in stone (absolutes), just that many of them contain useful lessons that teach your child and often teach parents as well.
Virtually Every Moment is An Opportunity to Read
Identify letters or words and their sounds, in natural settings:
Driving in your car
Reading and Writing Go Hand in Hand
Reading and writing are closely associated. Children that love to read become better writers, better students and chances are develop a lifelong desire to learn.
As I explained earlier, the book, “Read to Me,” was a pivotal moment in my life as my child’s “first teacher.” The author, Bernice E. Cullinan, was at the time of printing (1992) professor of Early Childhood and Elementary Education at New York University. In her book she addresses many questions and provides tips for parents on:
When to start reading to your child
How to use television wisely
How to make a reader out of your child
How to make a writer out of your child
She also includes some read-aloud books for preschoolers to preteens.
By reading to your child you can give your child a head start in life and the lifelong treasure of reading.
“Today a Reader, Tomorrow a Leader”
The Annie E. Casey Foundation provides annual reports on how children are faring in the United States. This is what they have to say about our values and direction in regards to the well-being of children.
As a nation, we are obsessed with data and indicators when it comes to the economy. We track the gross domestic product, the Consumer Price Index, unemployment, inventories, housing starts, interest rates and so on. We monitor these numbers because they are critical to understanding where our economy is heading, and because we want to be able to respond forcefully if the numbers signal developing problems.
We should be equally, if not more, concerned about the data that tell us how our children are doing: The wellbeing of our country’s children is the most important indicator of our long-term economic and social future.
-The Annie E. Casey Foundation
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