Engaging the Reluctant Reader

Literacy is the most critical skill in education. Success in nearly every other subject is dependent on a child’s ability to read and comprehend written language efficiently. That’s why I launched the “Read2bGreat” initiative – an effort to promote literacy and family engagement for elementary-aged students. The first three school years are a critical time for children to learn basic literacy skills that are required for more advanced curricula. Studies show that time spent reading is the best indicator of reading proficiency. So, how can we encourage our children and students to read – and enjoy it – for a minimum of twenty minutes a day?

Allow kids to pick their own books – or other reading material. First of all, it’s crucial that we have ample reading material for kids in the classroom and at home. Scholastic suggests a minimum of 300-600 books per classroom, depending on grade level and number of copies of each title. Of course, not all classrooms have access to large libraries. That’s why we all need to advocate for equality in education, and I hope many of you will consider donating books to schools in need.

For children that do have access to an array of books, it’s important to take two things into consideration as you guide them in choosing a title: comprehension and interest. It’s not good for a book to be too challenging – or too easy – for a young reader. Use grade or age ranges as a guideline, but also allow the child to assess the book. A good test is having a child read a full page of the book and count how many unfamiliar words they encounter. If it’s more than five, it’s best to pick a different title.

Interest plays a huge role in whether or not kids read for fun. Every school year brings a variety of required reading, and let’s face it – some of it is not universally appealing. I’m a huge advocate of bringing kids to the library and letting them choose their own “fun” reading material. There’s no harm in letting a child judge a book by its cover – or even encouraging them to read a magazine or comic book!

Build a book tree at home or in the classroom. Children in PreK – First Grade should read 100-125 picture books per school year, and older children should tackle 50-75 chapter books. That’s a huge accomplishment (and a lot more than many adults read per year), and it’s fun to visualize! Creating a book tree out of construction paper or paint is a great way to show off the successes of a group of children or a family. Each leaf represents a new book completed, and creates a beautiful mural.

While I don’t advocate bribing children to read, I do think rewarding consistent positive behavior is a great thing! Consider a craft project that allows you to track your child’s progress. Drop a marble or coin in an empty mason jar for every book completed. When it’s full, reward your child with a special treat or the money. If they choose to purchase a book with the funds, it’s time for a high-five, and consider doubling the prize if possible.

Themed activities bring books to life. The power of imagination is a beautiful thing, and many of us can immerse ourselves in unfamiliar worlds just by reading a story. Whether your child is a reluctant or avid reader, it’s always fun to take that one step further by creating elements of a book in real life. This can be in the form of a craft project, cooking a special meal, or participating in an activity like a scavenger hunt. The added bonus is that each of these requires further reading to accomplish. When your child discovers a book that they’re genuinely enthusiastic about, sit down and discuss what elements (characters, plot points, locations, etc.) drew them in. Use those highlights to plan your projects.

One of the most important ways adults can encourage kids to read is to be a reading role model. Kids notice if you tell them to do something, but don’t do it yourself. Reading is beneficial for all of us, regardless of age. That’s why I’m asking you to take the Read2bGreat pledge right alongside your child! Each day from November 14th – November 28th, students will pledge to read 20-minutes in class and families will pledge to join them for 20-minutes of reading to or with each other each evening. Will you join us?

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