Thursday, March 10, 2011

Teaching Children to Love to Read

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I really am a believer that if a person loves to read, there is no limit to what they can learn in life. If you feel comfortable reading, and think to turn to books, your education will never stop. I am also a believer that reading makes you smarter overall.

Of course, if you love something, you are more likely to do it. I [hate] don't like running. Unless I have a friend to be responsible to, I don't run consistently. Even when I do, I run my goal and stop. Conversely, I love playing basketball. Basketball is great exercise and requires a lot of running. I have no problem playing basketball for two hours. I will happily continue past when it is time for me to go home. I would never talk myself out of going to play basketball, but easily do so for going running.

So, the question becomes how do we teach our children to love to read? The Read-Aloud Handbook is full of ideas, so I am sure this topic will come up often. Page xvi has a list from a study of Kindergarteners on what parents did and how kids felt about books (high interest vs. low interest). So let's review these really simple things you can do.

Parent's Leisure Activities
If mother's leisure activity is watching TV, about 39% of kids have a high interest in books. If, however, her leisure activity is that she reads, about 78% of kids have a high interest in books. The numbers for father are similar. With TV, 35% have a high interest in books. With reading, 60% have a high interest in books.

What Parents Read
What you read also has an impact, but in an interesting way. For whatever reason, they only tracked the impact of mom reading novels. If mom read novels, 95% had a high interest in books! I find that a very powerful number. If dad read novels, 62% had a high interest in books. If dad read the newspaper, 91% had a high interest in books. I found the newspaper to book numbers surprising, but I think that is good news for dads. Many dads say they don't have time for reading books, but I think most can at least sit down and make a point to read part of the newspaper in front of their kids.

Number of Books
Having books in the home increases interest in reading. I know this is true for my kids, and the more books we have, the more we want.

This leads me to the next topic, library. Children who own a library card have higher interest in reading than those who don't, but I think that is a hard thing to measure because most library cards won't let a 5 year old own a library card. I know my library doesn't. The really telling numbers come from visiting the library. Of all of the factors looked at, visiting the library has the highest impact on interest in books.

Of those who went to the library, 98% had a high interest in books. What amazing numbers! 

Read to Daily
Children who were read to daily had a 76% success rate in a high interest in books. Only 1% of those read to daily had a low interest in books.

What You Can Do
Does this sound great? Do you wonder how you can work it in?

First, as a mom, try to not watch TV as a leisure activity in front of your children. 

Also, add reading a novel to your leisure activities if you don't already. My guess is most moms who read do so when kids are asleep. So the question becomes, how do you read in front of kids?

One thing is Sustained Silent Reading (SSR), which we will get to some day. The gist is you and the child sit in the room together, each reading your own material. No talking, just "reading." I LOVE SSR. It gives me time to take a break and read in the middle of my day.

Another idea is to let them have free play and you sit and read a book while they do so. 

If you absolutely cannot work reading in front of your children in, I would at least try to have a book out in view that you are reading, and maybe talk about things you are reading with your children. I don't think this would have as strong of an impact as your child seeing you read, but I think it is better than nothing.

What about dads? If dad doesn't read in front of the kids, I would talk to him about working it in, explaining why. Dad reading has a really big impact on sons especially. Maybe you could have SSR as a family. 

Now to building a home library. Don't think you need to build it all in a day. I have mentioned on the blog that I like to give each child a book for each birthday, Easter, and Christmas. I also buy books throughout the year, but as a starting point, holidays are a great place to start. Garage sales and thrift stores can be great places to find books.

And don't forget that the books you bring home from the library are books in your home.

Library. Of moms I know, very few take advantage of the library. They find it a hassle to return and renew books and don't like herding children through the library.

I know it isn't always convenient. Last January, I had a no-fun time with McKenna at the library. She did not want to stand still so I had a hard time really looking through the books. 

But believe me, children can learn to behave in a library just like they can learn to behave anywhere else. Will there be bad days? No doubt. But you can make it so most of your trips are nice. In February, McKenna was great. She stayed right by me. 

We used to go as a family, so one parent would man the children while the other gathered books. That was nice.

You can also go on Saturdays sometimes and leave unruly children at home (not all, but some). I take just Brayden and Kaitlyn once a month and then all three another day a month. 

Your library might have story times when your children can go participate in that while you get books.

As for renewing and returning, if you go regularly, that doesn't become an issue. Most libraries will renew over the phone and/or online. 

Going to the library is very much worth your efforts. Something I love is that we have thousands of books we can read for free. No need to buy every book out there--we can borrow. I also like that it keeps what we are reading at night fresh and different.

As for reading daily, make it part of your bedtime and/or nap routine to read books. And see this post for more:

As a simple review, things you can do to help your child be interested in reading books are:
  1. Parents read for leisure
  2. Parents read novels and newspapers
  3. Build a library at home
  4. Go to your public library with your child
  5. Read daily to your child
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Hunter C said...

This is great news! I already do all these things. I wonder when they'll do a study on the impact of eBooks and children's reading levels. I don't have a Kindle/Nook/eBook but I'm sure it'll change the numbers in the study.

Ceejay said...

I guess it's no wonder I love reading--my parents gave me little choice between all those factors you mention!

Gabrielle said...

Another idea mentioned in The Read-Aloud Handbook is to have books all over the house. We already did this instinctively. My 2 year old loves to read, so since she's always dragging books from one room to another, I decided to place book baskets in each room to keep them tidy. This just resulted in even more "reading" on her part since she has even more access to books. It's a wonderful cycle!

ME said...

Wow, this was thought provoking to say the least. I always loved reading growing up, and come to think of it my parent read a LOT. Now time for me to work on this!!

Plowmanators said...

Thanks for all of the comments!

Hunter, I wonder how ereaders will impact reading, also.

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knowonder! magazine


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