Thursday, August 30, 2007

Creating Good Readers

Kathryn at Daring Young Mom posted a great post about ways that she is instilling the love of reading into her kids. Then she opened it up for our suggestions. When I noticed that my comment turned into a college thesis, I decided that I should just do my own post on it.

I worked at Barnes and Noble for several years because of my love for books. Mr. Right and I made sure that we brought the kids to the store often just so that they could get used to books. And as a bonus, we took them to as many “Story Time Readings” that we could. It helped that I did the readings, too. (And if you know anything about me, you know I didn’t just read the book… I gave each story life as it was being read. I sang when the character sang. I growled when the character was upset. I yelled and screamed with fright if the characters were scared out of their socks. In other words, I made it fun and exciting to read books.)

Both of my children love to read, and I know that we, Mr. Right and I had something to do with it. It helped that both of us have degrees in education, but more than that, we ourselves have a love for the written word.

I have several tips that helped foster a love of reading in my children.

  • Set the expectation. If your children understand that reading is important early in their lives, then the chances are greater that they will come to realize its beauty. It's the same with discipline; you have to let them know what you want them to do in order for them to head in the right direction.
  • Lead by example. I let them see me reading and taught them to have respect my read time. I even have sent them away if they tried to interrupt my read time. (The non-emergency times, of course.)
  • When I read with them, I give the characters funny voices and show them that they can use their imagination when getting into a book. (You can see why I was given the task of story time at work…)
  • We set aside special read times. 30 minutes before bed is Mr. Right's special time with both kids. That’s right – Mr. Right knows the importance of encouraging reading, plus it gives him a bond with the kids. The kids look forward to knowing that when Daddy gets home, it’s their special time to read with him.
  • We have a rule that works for older kids. Our Girl isn't allowed to see a book-turned-movie until she has read the book. Fortunately for us, this tip has worked with all the Harry Potter books/movies. For HP 4, she was finishing the book on the way to the theater. She finished the 5th book just in time for the 5th movie, which turned out to be part of her birthday present. (She has been a reader of them since 1st grade, and she made a deal with herself to read a HP book for each grade. I don't know what she's going to do when she reaches 8th grade...) We will do the same for the Boy, especially now that he’s older and has movies that interest him. From what I understand, Ben 10 is going to have a TV movie coming out soon, and he’s going to have to earn his viewing pleasure by reading some Ben 10 books.
  • Get books that interests them. My Boy is all about Star Wars, Ben 10, Transformers or many different fantasy series such as Magic Tree House or The Secret of Droon. I can persuade him to read more when he is interested in the storyline or characters.
  • Give books as presents. Try giving books that were thrilling to you when you were a kid. Books don’t really go out of date, so sharing a favorite of yours will open you up to your child a little more. I’ve found that they’ve loved reading books that meant something to me. When I told the Girl that I adored Witch of Blackbird Pond, she read it and then encouraged many of her friends to read it, stating that “even my Mom loved this book.”
  • Or, better yet, give them gift cards to bookstores. Then make a big deal out of their getting to pick their own books. My kids LOVE going to the bookstore now, especially when they know that they get to pick out something special for themselves. The books that they pick out seem to be taken off the bookshelf just a little bit more. I’d like to give a word of caution though: Not every book for children deserves to be in print. Don’t let your kids pick out worthless, grammatically incorrect books with no redeeming factors. Guide their selection based on the value of the book and great writing. I see no need for us to provide poorly written material to our kids when we’re striving to teach them that English is important in all avenues of communication.
  • When you take them to the bookstore, give them time to read or peruse books. If they're not rushed, they'll learn to enjoy the beauty and thrill of books.
  • When they do finish a chapter or a book, talk about the book with them. You can build a great relationship with your children by asking them what happened in the book, how situations made them feel, what they think would happen if there was a sequel. Plus, it shows them that books are meant to be interactive, discussed, dwelt upon for time to come. It encourages them to take reading to a deeper level.

My book suggestions for little kids are as follows:

Escape of Marvin the Ape
Click, Clack, Moo
Moo, Baa... La, La, La
The Monster At The End of the Book
Love You Forever (You’ve GOT to sing the momma’s song!)
Guess How Much I Love You
The Cow Who Wouldn't Come Down
The Pig In the Pond
10 Minutes to Bedtime
The Kissing Hand
Green Eggs and Ham
If You Give A Mouse A Cookie
Charlotte’s Web
Eric Carle books
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
Giraffes Can’t Dance
The Paper Bag Princess

For older kids:

Harry Potter series
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Chronicles of Narnia series
Pink and Say
A Wrinkle in Time
Because of Winn Dixie
Number the Stars

The Giver
Bridge to Terabithia
Sarah Plain and Tall
How To Eat Fried Worms
Tuck Everlasting
The Secret Garden

The Blue Sword and The Hero and the Crown
Ida B... and Her Plans to Maximize Fun, Avoid Disaster and (Possibly) Save the World

These, of course are not complete lists, but they are just an inkling of all the great books that are waiting to be read on library and bookstore shelves. Who knows? These books may even encourage you to pick up a book a little more often than you do now.


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