Raising a reader: The do's and don'ts

Babybug Magazine

by Thomas Haller and Chick Moorman

Raising a readerReading is the fundamental skill at the base of all learning. It is simply a confirmed fact that students with strong reading skills tend to do better in school than those with less developed reading skills.

Most parents want to raise a confident and competent reader. Yet, they are often unsure of what to do. In the remainder of this article we will explore some important do's and don'ts that will give you some guidelines as you move towards the important goal of raising a reader.

Do begin reading aloud to your children at an early age. This technique is vital to cultivating a love of reading in youngsters. Start early and continue this process into adolescence and beyond.

Do read to your children everyday. Research indicates that 40 percent of parents do not read regularly to their children. The bare minimum a child should be read to is 20 minutes per day, every day. READ, READ, READ! Read to your children while they are eating breakfast, while they riding in the car (if you're a passenger too), while they are waiting at the doctor's office, when they are in the bath tub, and before they go to bed.

Do read the same book over and over. Children love hearing the same book read again and again. They will let you know when they have obtained everything from a story that they need and are ready to move on. The repetition helps them to fully grasp the meaning in the story and become familiar with the book, its language, and the illustrations. Eventually they will begin to draw connections to the words on the page and start to follow the print as you read.

In this repetition your children are learning about the process of writing. They begin to understand how words fit together to make sentences, how sentences turn into paragraphs, and how paragraphs become chapters. They anticipate what is going to happen next and learn the beginning, middle, and end parts of a story. The more comfortable they become with a story the more they develop a sense of independence with it and see that reading is something they can do themselves.

Don't force your child to listen to you read if she is not interested. Forcing a child to do anything builds resentment, anger and defiance. The last thing you want is for your child to resent reading and be angry about reading.

Do limit access to the electronic devices in your home. Unfortunately, electronic devices are slowly taking the place of parents spending time with their children. It's not new information that children in America now spend, on average, 6½ hours a day exposed to electronic media. That includes TV, computers, listening to music and playing video games.

It is time for parents to pull the plug on the electronic media and put the human touch back into the parenting equation. Pulling that plug will create time and space for your children to read.

Do get your children a library card. The more exposure children have to books the better.

Don't bribe your child into reading with rewards, contests, or stickers. Motivation to read needs to come from the inside, not from the outside. No one would ever consider offering a reward to the child who watched the most television or played a video came the longest. Children do those things naturally because they enjoy them.

The goal then is to set reading up to be enjoyable. If your child is not interested in reading, ask yourself a few questions: Why is she frustrated? Is it because the material is boring or not interesting to her? Does she not like reading because I correct her too much? Is the book not colorful or attractive enough? Would she rather be reading from a pop up book or a children's magazine?