by Thomas Haller and Chick Moorman
Reading 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?
Your child will learn best when she is feeling support and encouragement, not when she is threatened or bribed.
Don't use flash cards to teach your child words. A word only has meaning in context. Your child's ability to identify a single word on a card does not mean that he will recognize that word and be able to read it in a sentence. The process of recognizing an isolated word is actually the opposite of learning to recognize it in context. Your child will begin to recognize an isolated word after he has seen and practiced it many, many times in a meaningful sentence. Don't force that process with flash cards.
Do label everyday items around the house with word cards. Type in big bold letters objects in your home and stick the label on the object. Label the door, television, window, microwave, clock, toaster, stairs, bookshelf, table, chair, etc. The word is now in context. You need not ever mention the label. Your child will say something to you and when he does you explain that the label is the written form of the word for that item. Your child will draw the connection later.
Do write down your children's words and read them back to them. Write down what your child tells you about an exciting part of her day or about a picture they drew or a bug they found. Don't edit their words. Write what they say exactly as they say it. Remember the process is more important than the product. You child is learning about the process of reading and writing. It gives children a concept of how words are used and where stories come from.
Writing down your child's words also gives value to what she says. For children to see their words in print and hear their own words read aloud is empowering and it helps to give them a strong sense of what they can do with their words.
Don't encourage your child to sound out unknown words. The meaning of a word in the context in which it is being used is far more important to the reading process than the specific sounds. The English language is far too difficult to accurately understand a word by sounding it out. To insist on making sure your child has pronounced the word correctly can make reading a tiresome, boring process. Sounding out words takes the fun and joy out of reading. Your children will learn how to pronounce words as you talk to them and use a richer fuller vocabulary with them on a daily basis. This will translate to their reading with they are having fun reading.
Instead of sounding out words encourage your child to guess at what the word might be. Teach your child how to recognize clues by looking at the pictures or thinking about the rest of the sentence or paragraph. Ask leading questions like, "What word might fit in that spot?" or "This word starts with a "k," what "k" word could you use here?"
Do allow finger pointing when your child is reading. Finger pointing is a common practice when someone is unfamiliar with what they are reading. Following along with your finger enables you to have a sense of control over the material. This is true for adults and children alike. Let your children gain confidence in their reading and if the finger pointing does not distract from the enjoyment then let it be. Your children will give up following the words with their fingers when their confidence level rises.
Do let your children see you reading. Let your children catch you reading a novel, the newspaper, and a magazine. Read some of it to them so they get an idea of what interests you. Don't expect your children to be actively involved in reading if they never have an opportunity to see you reading. When your children see you reading they see that reading is meaningful and that it has a purpose for adults. It communicates that reading is not just about a grade at school. It says that reading has purpose in your life too.
Reading is so important to your child's educational development that March has been deemed National Reading Month. During the month of March take new or improved steps to raising a confident reader. Begin by letting your children see you reading this article. Then broaden your children's reading horizons the rest of the year by using the ideas presented here. The result will be children that love to read.
Chick Moorman and Thomas Haller are the authors of "The 10 Commitments: Parenting with Purpose." They also publish a free email newsletter for parents and another for educators. Subscribe to them when you visit their websites. Chick Moorman and Thomas Haller are two of the world's foremost authorities on raising responsible, caring, confident children.
Copyright © Chick Moorman and Thomas Haller. Permission to republish granted to Pregnancy.org.
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