As a fourth-grade teacher for 15 years, I have had many conversations with parents. But by far, the most common question I get is, "How do I get my child to enjoy reading?"
The answer to this question is not as elusive as many people think. The answer is simply to READ TO your child! We parents often think that when a child is able to read a book by him/herself that we should stop reading to our children. We have this fantasy that they will automatically become lifelong readers who love to sit with a book and read by themselves. But, this is the furthest thing from the truth! Anyone who loves reading knows that the BEST part of the book is sharing it with a friend, a spouse, or a reading group! Reading is not meant to be an isolating experience that you do alone without any interaction. We are social creatures and crave interaction with loved ones.
Think about this! When you read aloud, you are teaching your child so much more than just telling them a story. When you read to a child, you are practicing:
• reading fluency (steady, easy, fluid pacing of the words on the page).
• vocabulary ("Mom, what does that mean?").
• bonding with your child (when you sit together in a comfy chair or in his/her bed reading together, that bonding time is critical for growth! Don't underestimate the importance of bonding in developing lifelong readers).
• reading comprehension ("Wait, what just happened? Tell me what you think?").
• critical thinking skills ("Oh my gosh! Why do you think he/ she did that?").
• predictions ("What do you think will happen next? Why?").
• conversation starters ("This reminds me of our trip to Disney last year. Remember that? What was your favorite part of that trip?").
• problem solving ("Mom, Tanya is so mean. She reminds me of this girl who's bothering me").
• co-reading (you read a page and let child read a page).
• relaxing your body and mind with a screen-free evening ritual.
• enjoying literature together. (I read to my students every single day. In the 2,520 days that I have been teaching, I have yet to find one student who does not look forward to it! THEY ARE NOT TOO OLD TO BE READ TO.)
So, if you want a child to become "a lifelong reader," try these tips:
1) Pick 15-20 minutes each night to read to your child.
2) Pick a cozy place to read.
3) Choose fun voices for the characters.
4) Let your child choose the book or choose it together.
5) Encourage conversation throughout.
6) Model great reading habits.
7) Let your child read to you sometimes or read together!
8) Share some tea or a cookie while you read.
9) Make reading fun! Don't assign comprehension questions or print quizzes.
10) Picture books are great literature too! Don't only read chapter books!
So, if you want your child to be a lifelong reader, ignore the reading comprehension practice books and speed-reading software. Invite your big kid to sit next to you each night and read to him. Share literature with your kid like you would a delicious meal, tasting every word together, discussing its meaning and unraveling its complexities and mystery. You won't regret it and your child won't forget it.