Small Planet Communications, Inc. + 15 Union Street, Lawrence, MA 01840 + (978) 794-2201 + Contact
Do you ever wonder how you can help your child develop a passion for reading?
Studies show that parents not only can but should take an active interest in a child's developing reading skills. Rudolfo Anaya's love of language did not develop only in the classroom. It developed as he listened to members of his family tell stories and poems. It developed after he got his first library card, when he could take interesting books home and spend quiet time reading them. In the same way, your child's ongoing development as a reader will depend on a variety of experiences.
As you know, a child's learning begins long before his or her first day of formal education. You are your child's first and most important teacher and role model. However, when a child outgrows bedtime stories and story hour at the library, it becomes more difficult to shape his or her reading experiences. It is essential, however, that you continue your efforts. You can do this by adapting principles you used when your child was just beginning to read and by introducing new ideas and experiences to fit your child's changing skill and maturity level. If you commit to doing this, you can and will play a key role in helping your child become an eager reader whose life is forever enriched by books.
The following suggestions can help you to foster literacy in your child, whether you are homeschooling or supplementing a public or private school education. Together they form a plan of action that encourages reading activities and presents reading in a positive light.
Children whose parents value reading and who read at home have a better chance of succeeding in school and becoming life-long readers. Be sure your children see you reading both for pleasure and to get information. Keep good books, magazines, and newspapers in the house. Follow news events and read the paper. You might want to read articles from the newspaper together at the breakfast table or while relaxing in the evening. Discuss what your children are reading. Encourage them to talk about issues, characters, and themes in their reading. Try to connect these ideas to your lives. The U.S. Department of Education's Office of Educational Research and Improvement says, "Talk and listen to your children. Language is like a four-legged stool: speaking, listening, reading, and writing are its parts, and each supports the other." You might want to review the U.S. Department of Education's online brochure "Helping Your Child Learn to Read" This brochure contains tips on reading instruction at home that can be adapted for older children. It also features a special section on building enthusiasm for reading in older children.
Encourage activities that require reading, such as cooking, constructing something (kite, model, art project), or identifying animals or trees after a hike or nature walk. If a child has a particular hobby, such as horseback riding, hiking, or music, introduce him or her to a variety of books related to it. For example, encourage a young basketball player to read a fiction book about basketball, a biography of a professional basketball player, and a book that talks about the history of basketball. These efforts show children that reading is not just a school activity, but an activity that can help them in different areas of their lives.
Some reading should be for enjoyment; some should be to gather information. Introduce children to a variety of genres, including nonfiction, fiction, science fiction, poetry, etc., so that they can discover what genre they enjoy most. Ask them what types of writing they find most enjoyable and what types they find most challenging. Try to direct your child toward interesting, high-quality literature. Books that make children laugh, give them a sense of wonder, or keep them on the edge of their seats motivate them to keep reading. You can look online for lists of award-winning books. Visit The Children's Literature Web Guide.
Make reading a regular part of your child's life. Encourage him or her to spend time reading every day, even if only ten or fifteen minutes each day. For example, have your child quietly read something he or she enjoys each night just before going to bed. Or, have your child read something to you. As a family, set aside at least one evening each week for reading instead of watching television. Make reading a part of school vacations. For example, at the start of summer vacation, parents can help children to set reading goals according to their individual skill levels. For example, one child might comfortably be able to read two chapter books over a summer, while another child might be able to read many more. Always remember that children are entitled to enjoy their summer reading—allow them freedom in choosing what they read and don't push them so hard that the reading is seen as an unpleasant chore.
Research proves that reading and writing are skills that influence and support each other. Often good readers are good writers, and good writers are good readers. With this in mind, encourage your child to exchange letters or email with friends and relatives. Suggest that your child create a family newsletter or design a web page. These are fun ways for children to hone their reading and writing skills. Also, children should be encouraged to communicate their thoughts and opinions on books, poems, or articles in writing. They can do this by writing informally in a journal or reading log. A child's journal or reading log can also be a place where they write private thoughts about their lives. Journal writing will boost your child's language skills and encourage him or her to look at the world through the eyes of a writer.
Feeling comfortable in a library is an important part of being a literate person. Encourage children to get library cards and to make regular trips to the library. For upper-elementary and middle school children, the library is no longer just a source of entertainment; it is a place to find information. They can now be expected to use school and public libraries for reports and other research projects. There are many ways you can help your child build strong library skills. Here are some tips that will help you and your child through library/research assignments:
Are your efforts to foster literacy at home being supported at your child's school? If you are homeschooling, are you completely satisfied that your children are becoming eager, skilled readers? Whatever your answers to these important questions might be, the Book Club program is worth looking into. This program, developed over the last eleven years by a group of teachers and researchers, "has proven again and again that it does not only improve language arts skills, but also helps students gain increased motivation and the desire to become better readers." The Book Club program works so well because it incorporates the principles for encouraging literacy that are outlined above. It does this by:
Traditional reading/literature instruction focuses heavily on searching for the "right answer." Students are encouraged to read for facts and sometimes trivial details that they are asked to recall for quizzes and short-answer worksheet questions—which they usually struggle to complete independently. This type of reading instruction is not likely to develop a child's love of reading. The teachers and parents who use Book Club understand that literacy is a process. Good readers find meaning in a text by bringing their own ideas to it, discussing it, and connecting it to the world and their own lives.
This is how a typical Book Club classroom operates:
For fifteen minutes or so, students converse as the teacher walks from group to group to supervise and give guidance when necessary.
Traditional reading instruction keeps children on the outside—telling them that meaning is buried deeply within texts and then sending them on fact-finding missions. The Book Club program invites students to dive right into the literature—to question, debate, reflect, and to value what they bring to texts as readers. If your wish is to have your children be proficient readers and passionate about reading, then consider talking to teachers about Book Club or introducing Book Club's ideas into your homeschool environment.
For a more information about the Book Club Program, see our overview. To order Book Club teaching materials, call 1-800-475-9486 or fax 978-794-8062.
American Library Association: For Parents and Caregivers — The American Library Association leads the country's development and promotion of library and information serves. This section of the site is aimed specifically at parents and caregivers, including those who are homeschooling. Here you will find tips on raising lifelong readers and choosing good books for your children. The site also provides links and information on news and events.
International Reading Association — The International Reading Association is a group that seeks to promote high levels of literacy for all. Their website includes lists of relevant publications and information on the latest research on literacy. It also provides useful literacy links.
National Council of Teachers of English — This site, aimed at the professional development of English teachers, includes ideas and resources that can be useful to parents as well. Here you will find language arts news, lists of books on teaching literacy, proverbs and quotations, and open discussions on literacy. You will also find relevant links to other web resources.
National Middle School Association — The National Middle School Association is dedicated to the educational and developmental needs of young adolescents. Its members include teachers, parents, administrators, community leaders, and a variety of others. At their website, you will find a resource center, news, research, information on the importance of parental involvement in education, and relevant links. Understanding the special needs of students at this developmental stage will help you as you try to foster literacy in your child.
Reading is Fundamental (RIF) — One of the most well-known literacy organizations, Reading is Fundamental, offers a variety of resources on its website. The site has a special section for parents that includes book lists and motivational activities and tips. The site also offers the latest news in literacy and information on other literacy resources.
ERIC — The National Educational Resources Information System (ERIC) is designed to give parents and educators access to a variety of education-related literature. Established in 1966, ERIC is supported by the U.S. Department of Education and the National Library of Education. ERIC is devoted to Reading, English, and Communication. It provides education resources, children's literature resources, and information on the state of literacy in the nation.
U.S. Department of Education — This useful pamphlet, put out by the U.S. Department of Education, gives information on helping your child learn to read. Although it is geared primarily toward parents of younger children, parents of older children are likely to find certain sections of it relevant. The pamphlet gives specific information on building enthusiasm for reading in children, choosing books, working with schools, and building literacy in older children. It also provides a helpful list of resources.
The Children's Literature Web Guide — This site, which calls itself "The most comprehensive guide to English-language children's book awards on the Internet," provides lists of titles for children and young adults. The site offers an explanation of each award and a complete list of its winners, from the award's inception to the present. This is a good place to start in your hunt for quality literature for your young reader.
Good Reads — From classics to brand new, this informative site provides reviews of a variety of books for middle school and young adult readers. Each book offers details and short description, reviews by readers, and suggestions on what else the reader might like. Furthermore it offers a biography and bibliography of the author as well as trivia games and quizzes about each book.
Recommended Teen Reading: St. Charles Public Library — This thorough and well-organized site is run by Youth Services at St. Charles Public Library in St. Charles, Illinois. It includes book lists in categories such as: Best Books for Young Adults, Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers, Books . . .the Other Channel (books as alternatives to television), Make the Cut (books with sports themes), Looking for Horror?, and Winning Reads. You just might find titles that will appeal to even the most finicky young reader.