How can we help our kids become lifelong readers?
Years of research support that reading to children from birth helps them to associate reading with feelings of love. It helps to develop the needed vocabulary to be successful, and it allows them to build a wealth of background knowledge that helps them to interpret the world. And, let’s face it, reading to them while they are young is a joyful experience for both the parent and the child. The challenges for us as parents and teachers: how do we continue to cultivate those feelings as our students advance through the grades? How do we still make reading joyful for the less than enthused reader?
What can our schools do?
There are key components to increasing students’ reading achievements and motivations to read.
- Access to books: Students need access to a wide array of reading material (e.g., novels, magazines, picture books, digital texts).
- Time to read: Students need time to read throughout the course of the school day.
- Reading engagement: Teachers need to be knowledgeable of the individual needs and interests of each student in order to provide reading recommendations.
- School-wide support: Teachers across the disciplines can promote a culture of reading across a variety of genres and topics.
- Well-stocked libraries: Classrooms need libraries, and libraries need to include well-maintained collections of interesting reading materials.
- Student choice: Most importantly, students need to have a choice in their independent reading materials.
Reading for the pure joy of reading is built around student interests. It is not about earning points or receiving a tangible reward. Reading for the sake of rewards takes away the pleasure of authentic reading. When assigning a grade to reading, often the joy of reading is replaced with a message that reading is only for a grade.
What can parents do?
There are many ways parents can support their child’s reading at home.
- Value reading: Set the tone; let your child see you reading. Better yet, find out what your child enjoys reading. See if you have any common interests and read some common books!
- Provide time: Reading time does not always involve a timer and a kitchen table. Teach your child to read during those “edge” times, such as in the car, in the waiting room, on the bus, or even during commercials!
- Discuss reading: Have conversations about what children are reading, which helps them discover what reading teaches us about life as well as enhancing comprehension.
Do you have access to the Internet?
Check out myON Reader, a digital library with thousands of books available…everything from graphic novels to nonfiction! myON Reader was introduced to our students and teachers last year as an instructional tool as well as an option for independent reading. myON Reader provides each student with a recommended list of titles based on their interests and appropriate reading level. This digital library is open to students after school, at night, on the weekends, and even during the summer!
In addition to myON Reader, StarWalk Kids (a new e-book publishing venture launched by award-winning author Seymour Simon) is making its entire e-book collection for children available for free during the winter break. The StarWalk Kids collection includes high-interest literature and informational texts that work on any tablet or computer. No login will be required during the two-week period, making access super easy for students.
For those of us who still love to hold an actual book in our hands and who even appreciate the smell of a good book, we encourage you to keep accessing the traditional printed book. Going to the library and browsing a variety of books helps our kids explore different genres. The most important point we want to make is that students need a choice and voice in what they read independently. Providing daily encouragement, creating an environment that supports reading, and asking students about their reading will go a long way in helping keep the act of reading a joyful experience.
The Office of Academic Education wishes all of you a wonderful holiday season! We hope you and your family make wonderful memories and enjoy some time reading together! We look forward to an exciting spring semester. Ho, ho, ho, and read, read, read!