Tuesday, October 7, 2014

How To Get A Kid To Read

   I'm an avid reader; I know that is kinda like saying the sky is blue, but I have a point with making that my leading sentence. Also, I raised a daughter that is an avid reader. But I don't really think I can take a ton of credit for that, you see, my mother is also an avid reader: I think it's genetic. Regardless, I have been asked for tips from several people about getting kids to read, so I thought I'd say what I think. In saying what I think, however, I need to also explain that what I think did NOT work whatsoever on my niece. She doesn't like to read and none of my tips worked. So take this with a grain of salt. That being said, here is my opinion on the best way to get kids to read.
   1. Read out loud to your kid, and start as soon as possible. I started reading to mine at birth. She didn't get to choose the books at first, because she didn't care and couldn't talk to tell me what she wanted, so her first books consisted of The Lord of The Rings trilogy, but even that got her into  the ritual of reading, and that is so important.
   2. Poems; specifically silly poems like those written by Shel Silverstein. For a kid with a short attention span, poems are shorter than stories and the silly ones about being eating by boa constrictors, picking your nose, and being buried by garbage can catch a young reader's fancy.
   3. Dr. Seuss is your friend. Actually, any books that rhyme and can be read in a rhythm are good. My daughter loved those best when she was still reading books for young children. She wanted them to be read as often as possible, and if you didn't read them in rhythm, she would make you start over and "read the book right".
   4. As your kid gets older, let them choose the books that they read. Don't outlaw things like comic books and manga. They may seem frivolous, but any book reading is building skills such as vocabulary, imagination, critical thinking, comprehension, and so-on. Over time, those skills will translate to other things, such as that science article their teacher wants them to read or that chapter in the history book. The important thing is for them to enjoy reading, so that they will build these skills. So if what they want to read is the newest Spiderman comic, then go for it. If all they want to do is sing a song, find song lyrics online, and print them out so that they can read the lyrics and sing along to their favorite songs. Get creative.
   5. When your child starts reading to you, don't get impatient when they are sounding out words. Let them do that themselves. My daughter got really angry when I would give a word away. I suggest only helping them when they ask for the help. For me, this is good training for school, because whoever their teachers are, they are not going to know if your kid needs help unless they speak up. Patience is really key, not matter how much the kiddos are stumbling with the words, and really, they get so happy when they read you a book all on their own.
   6. Continue reading out loud even when your child is proficient in reading. Reading is good quality time regardless. Also, talk to your kid about books they have read. Read what they read so that you can talk about story plots and discuss characters. These kids are going to have to show that they can analyse text; this is great practice.
   7. Don't use reading as a punishment. They have to read in school; they are required all through elementary to take AR tests on reading. You want to have reading a book to have as many positive connotations as possible. So don't say in frustration, "You're never playing a video game again! All you are going to do is sit in your room and read a book for the next week!" (I say this because I've actually made the mistake of saying this myself.) You don't want reading to feel like a punishment.
   I don't know if this will actually help anyone. Every kid is different and they all learn in different ways. This is what I did though, and maybe one or two of the things I've written will give you ideas or help you out if you are struggling to get a child to read. I hope so, at any rate. And if you are reading this, and you have tips to add, please do so in the comment section! I know a few families who struggle with this, and I'm sure they would love the tips!

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