Encouraging your Child to Read
Establishing a love of books in your young child is an important tenet in their educational development later in life. Books promote an exploration of the imagination that is lacking in most other tangible areas of a child’s life such as the television and many common (and popular) toys. But it is a love of books and all things associated with books that will lead your child to success, not just in their school age years but also in their professional careers. It is the love of books and learning that will propel them forward for the rest of their lives.
As parents, among other “jobs”, we are the lead educators in our child’s lives. It is up to us to teach so many things from how to learn to how to make good decisions. Starting at a very early age, children are taught their lessons from watching what you do and imitating those actions. Responding positively to praise and negatively to criticism is a large part of their learning through trial and error. But as educators it is not enough that we teach our children everything they need to know, as we will not always be there. It is also extremely important to teach our children how to teach themselves – a task that cannot be fulfilled without learning to read.
As parents there are several things that we can do to encourage your child to read. Some may seem obvious but it is important to understand that it is a process where success is realized over time, often over several years. Encouraging you child to read cannot be done simply by handing your child a book and expecting them to fall in love with it. There are too many distractions calling out for their attention which provides more of an immediate short term satisfaction with less work (e.g. the television again). The following are some ideas (though certainly not exhaustive of a list) that can help encouraging your child to read and to actually enjoy it.
- Lead by Example – When was the last time your child saw you pick up a book. Remember, children learn through imitation. Seeing you as their parent and roll model make a point to read everyday will have a profound impact. Even if it is just the newspaper at the kitchen table, and sharing out loud some of what is contained within the pages will have a profound impact of opening your child’s mind to the world outside of their home, city or town. Some families have 20 or 30 minutes of reading time as a family before the kids are off to bed, which is a great way to demonstrate the importance of reading while including reading in the daily routine.
- Visit the local library – One of the best and most under-utilized services communities offer is the public library. All have fantastic children’s section and many offer great programs such as author readings. The best part is that it is absolutely free (provided you return those books on time). Taking time out of every Saturday morning to visit the library is a great way to show your child the importance of reading for zero cost. They can then get involved in making decisions of choosing the books that are tailored to their individual interests thereby promoting a sense of self-expression and individuality.
- Make books a part of the nighttime routine – Children, especially young ones thrive on routine. When getting ready for bed many families have a process that starts as soon as dinner ends. Children quickly learn that as the process progresses, bedtime approaches. Why not consider reading out loud for 30 minutes every night right before lights out. This is a much better activity than watching the television and can actually make them more ready for bed. Reading out loud to your child allows for the mind to drift off into imagination and dreaming. That is why many times you will look down by the third chapter and see your child has already drifted off to sleep.
- Encourage your child to read out loud – Reading out loud forces your child to consider the pronunciation of the words that they are reading. It allows you as a parent to monitor progress and provide constructive and timely criticism when needed. Even if you have your child read while you are cooking dinner in the kitchen for a short period of time it will have a positive impact. Learning to sound out the words that they have never seen before will teach them to teach themselves and provide them with a sense of accomplishment thereby building self-esteem.
- Make Books the focus of the living room – In many living rooms and even bedrooms the television takes the spotlight as being the focal point of the room. This article is not meant to bash the importance of the television, but it should be balanced with other mediums. Prominently display books on a coffee table or better yet move the bookshelf into the living room to store the books. In a child’s bedroom, a child size bookshelf is a great alternative to storing all of those children’s books in an old box currently located in the bottom of the closet. Out of sight, out of mind holds true for last year’s Christmas presents as well as all of those books collected over the years.
In conclusion, the above is by no means an exhaustive list nor will fulfilling all of the above on a regular basis ensure that your child grows up loving to read. But it will certainly increase the chances if you encourage your child to read on a daily basis and ensure that they are learning from your actions as their biggest roll model. Encouraging your child to read should be a family affair that can be continued until they graduate from college. By then, the lessons you have taught them along the way will prepare them well for what lies ahead. And encouraging your child to love to read is a great step!
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