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5 Ways to Teach Your Child to Love Reading

 

article_picture1Have you ever wondered how to pass down a love of reading to a special child in your life? Do you remember the joys of fictional friends you would like to introduce to the next generation? Is a child you know “stuck” at the level of pronunciation and seemingly unable to transition to the love of stories? Teaching your child to love reading may be easier than you think; follow these five steps to kick off a wonderful reading adventure in the life of a child you love.

 

1. Read to your child.

Sounds obvious, doesn’t it? And yet, even in the most well-intentioned homes, reading to your child is one of the first things that get scrapped in the everyday hustle of finding two matching socks, remembering that the dog is almost out of food, and getting Thursday’s work presentation put together semi-reasonably.

The bad news is that your child’s window of openness is far too short; his hungry mind longs for traction – for the challenges and rewards that reading brings. If you can sell him on reading before he discovers the blinking lights of video games, your battle will be half won already. Most kids decide very early in elementary school whether they are readers or non- readers; very few children past the age of 10 cross that line. So work hard in those early years, and your strong foundations will pay off for years to come.

The good news is that reading to your child doesn’t have to be an all-consuming passion; a short, daily “reading time” is all it takes to set kids on that joy-filled, success-inducing habit. Set a timer for 20 minutes, and don’t let anything interrupt that special time. It’s an investment in your child – both in his future independently as well as in your relationship with him.

 

2. Make audio books a treat.

If your idea of audio books consists of dry, gravelly old voices hacking out raspy sentence after raspy sentence, you are in for a treat. Modern audio books are available in more formats than ever before, available from more sources than ever before (did you know your library can “check out” an audio book to you even when it’s closed for business?), and include more sound effects and special backgrounds than ever before. If you’re not sure where to start, look at Blackstone Audio, or (for a younger child) Rabbit Ears Productions. Librivox and Audible offer audio books online, as well.

Use car time for audio books (no fair listening ahead, though!), and occasionally schedule a “listening lunch” at home. If kids are fidget-y, look into knitting or model clay sculpting or even wood carving. Or maybe folding laundry?

 

3. Choose stories that are “too hard.”

Children can understand stories that are far above their own actual reading level; make it a point to find stories that are accessible by audio that may not be quite yet accessible by actual reading. Harder stories develop a child’s appreciation for “real” books (as opposed to Early Readers), and stretch his mind to accept complex characters and lengthier plots. You can either read these stories to the child out loud, or play them for him to hear.

 

4. Talk about the story with your child.

Why do we cheer so hard for that one character? What makes us all dislike that other one? Did that story end the way you were expecting it to? Do those characters remind you of real people that you know?

The best way to discuss a book with a child is to ask questions. Ask him questions, and then listen to his answers. Let him ask you questions. Explore ideas together instead of asking questions that have a “right or wrong” answer; let him make guesses about the end of the story, and don’t be afraid to be wrong yourself.

 

5. Don’t quit!

Reading is a lifelong habit, a skill that grows and changes rapidly at times and then stays comfortably constant for years on end. If you hit a rough patch of busyness or a string of less-than-stellar books, stop. Re-evaluate. Not every book is worth finishing. Some are, even with a slow start. Switch things up. Get back in the game.

If you’re stuck for ideas, ask around. Don’t be afraid to try new genres, new formats, new styles. Librarians, teachers, and grandmothers (not necessarily in that order) are some of the best people to ask for book recommendations.

Many parents make the mistake of thinking that children are born “natural readers” or “non-readers” – the truth is (as least in the early years) that decision can very much be influenced by parental forces. Give reading with a child a try today, and see where the journey takes you. You may be very pleasantly surprised.

 

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