As an educator, I get asked two questions every year multiple times, “What can I do at home to help my child with reading?” and “What apps can we download for reading?” Although these questions seem exceptionally loaded, the answers I provide are so simple, but mind blowing. So, sit back, buckle up, and pay attention. Prepare to have your mind blown!
There Isn’t an App for That!
There are so many amazing reading apps out there for all ages. However, when starting the foundations of literacy, I can’t stress enough how important it is to model reading. I follow up the first big question (What can I do to help my child with reading?) with a question. Although it can be annoying to respond with a question, this one is so very critical. I ask parents, are you a reader?
Well, duh. Of course adults are readers. But, are you as a parent modeling reading at home? I know life is busy between work, after school schedules, managing a home, etc. etc. Yet, ask yourself. When is the last time I actually read a book or a magazine, anything in print? I’m an English teacher and I have to constantly check myself on this question too! To create a reader, you have to be one yourself!
The internet is buzzing with this phrase, “an app, can’t replace a lap.” As much as I loathe these judgmental mantras, this one holds significant truth. There’s countless research out there that promotes the benefits of reading to your child for just a few minutes everyday. If reading hasn’t been your family’s everyday thing, have no fear! I’m here to help.
Books, Books, Books!
Of all the stuff that clutters our homes (we are drowning in toys at my house!), books should be added to this mix. Making your home book-friendly doesn’t necessarily have to mean loading your shelves. Joining your local library is a fantastic approach to supporting literacy.
For myself, joining the library was a rite of passage. I remember having my own little book bag, being super responsible for my card, and begging my parents to take me each week. My dad would head on over to the cozy “dad chair” as he would call it, and read his newspaper while I wandered around the shelves.
Listen, I know this is 2020 and we are living in a pandemic. You can’t exactly go chill out at the library these days with your feet up while your kid peruses the shelves. But, your local library is still lending out books. It may mean you are perusing the online site and reserving your books and then picking them up next week. A little effort now, put into learning how to utilize your library during these crazy times we live in, will pay off when you are finally able to get back inside the building.
Libraries these days are no longer just places filled with books, they are glorious meccas of information. Librarians are God’s gift to education and they are such an incredible resource to you as a parent that is 100% free! Libraries contain access to media, free online books and magazine subscriptions — the possibilities are endless. Public libraries are the not-so-hidden gems of the community. Go look up your local library, ASAP!
Readers Must Also Be Writers
In order to foster a love of reading within your child, you must also initiate the power of the pen. After all, reading is someone else’s writing. Which means that writing is creating reading for someone else. Often times, I have parents say that they hate fighting with their child to read. They proceed to share that these conversations regarding reading at home aren’t conversations at all, but knock-down, drag-out arguments. Thus, if your child isn’t a reader, maybe they’re a secret writer?
Aside from countless trips to the library, my parents bought me journals. I cringe at some of the things I would write in them. (Yes, they saved my journals. At least they didn’t save my teeth like some other parents I know!) However, I firmly believe that empowering your child to express their thoughts and ideas on paper (or on a free online blog or word processor if fine motor skills are a challenge or a point of contention) is a way to get them invested in other people’s writing.
Reading Should Be an Experience
Aesthetic is everything. Setting the tone for reading is half the battle. Most families have designated areas for different activities, reading should follow suit. When your children are smaller, this is easy. For example, you could create a cozy corner with books, pillows, bean bag chairs, etc. Maybe you’re like us and have that old milk-stained rocker that now acts as the reading chair before bed. Perhaps you use bedtime as your reading time.
However, as your children get older, creating the aesthetic for reading can be tough. Your child comes home burned out or rushed to get to their after school activities. I found that removing screens altogether has helped me become a better reader. Go to a place in your home that doesn’t house a screen and sit, decompress, and read. A space outside of where you sleep, eat, or play is ideal. Encouraging your older reader to find quietude in reading, starts with creating a calm, intentional space for them to do so.
Magazines Still Exist!
How do you combat the busy schedules and reinvent reading for your reluctant reader? This is where one of my favorite genres come into play: magazines. Yes, they do still exist! It is so easy to find a magazine that fits your child’s interest. Sure, magazine subscriptions come at an added cost, but for the price of a few cups of coffee per year, you have yourself a re-engaged reader. Sometimes older readers need a less intimidating read. A chapter book may remind them too much of their novel studies at school, or worse yet, their text books. Getting different types of reading material into the hands of our kids will surely spark a flame. Magazines are easily managed in the car on the way to sports or dance too!
Reading is truly cultural. As parents, we must instill reading as part of our everyday family beliefs. Supporting literacy doesn’t have to be challenging or dreaded. It can be as simple as sitting down to read with your child (no matter their age) to as challenging as starting a book club for your kids and their friends, or joining a book club for yourself! Whatever you choose to do to help foster the love of reading within your family, do it with intention, and don’t wait!