Thursday, March 10, 2011


One of the most common concerns that parents of both public/private educated & home educated children present to me is a desire to see their children reading more. On a weekly basis, a parent explains to me the scenario of how they absolutely love to read, but cannot get their youth to read at all. In many instances, the parent interprets a child's unwillingness to read freely & passionately as a recipe for disaster later in life, which to a degree, is accurate. While reading regularly does promote better reading & understanding, the actual problem to be concerned about is the quality of their reading, otherwise known as reading skills.

Here are some startling statistics from the most recent U.S. Department of Education adult literacy survey:

-Nearly half of America's adults are poor readers, or "functionally illiterate." They can't carry out simply tasks like balancing check books, reading drug labels or writing essays for a job.

-50 percent of American adults are unable to read an eighth grade level book.

-44 million adults in the U.S. can't read well enough to read a simple story to a child.

-More than 20 percent of adults read at or below a fifth-grade level - far below the level needed to earn a living wage.

Even these outdated numbers show enough for concern, as we know that our educational system has only worsened over the almost 20 years, since this recording. Encouraging our children to read more will ultimately be reflected in their testing scores & eventually their success, so to go back to the beginning in which I stated that this is our greatest concern, as parents. I have a degree in English, certified to teach reading & have helped dozens of children learn to read over the years - but more than that, I have been an avid reader since as early as I can remember & know the life-changing benefits of reading first-hand.

Allow me to suggest a few simple steps that just might help your child discover or embrace a hidden love for reading:

*Read to your child at bedtime.
There's no age too young for a child to listen to a book. Kids of all ages love to cuddle with their parents, so make reading an excuse to share love & quality time. Frankly, I started reading to my babies in the womb (not sure if they were actually listening or not). This is as simple as you reading aloud, whatever you are reading. The key here is to get the child used to your voice, but it's a great reason to introduce reading to your growing fetus.

*Take children to the library frequently.

The Public Library is the single greatest free resource in the United States. Absolutely invaluable! Most are open 6-7 days of the week, operate on extended hours, accompany all ages, and have free activities weekly. This is a great place to introduce a child to both books & storytime, as well as to other people who love to read. Also, don't be so stringent at first on what they read. If it's comic books or magazines they prefer, encourage it. If it's a certain type of book (like for a while my son would only read books on animals), then that's okay. So long as the material is age appropriate, I say focus more on the fact THAT they are reading rather than WHAT they are reading. Once you get them hooked, then you can tailor their content & even throw in some of the classics.

*Suggest the child take a book to the bathroom when they're going to be there for a while.
Believe it or not, one of my children thanked me a few days ago for encouraging reading during bathroom "sit-downs". At some point or another, all of the kids have laughed at me for recommending that, but she told me that she believes that it fostered her love for reading. Who knew? It's backfired on me though because now when someone wants to get out of a chore they grab a book & excuse themselves to "go to the bathroom."

*Buy books as treats & gifts.
Instead of buying them candy or a cheap toy that's going to break before you evenget it home, get them a book instead. At any Dollar Store you can grab one for little or nothing; even at a full priced store, you can find a children's book for under $5. We have more books in our house than any other single item because that's all I have ever bought them. With 5 children, we have only one toy box, yet more than a dozen book shelves, baskets, bins, & such. There's not a room the kids can enter & not find an age-appropriate book.

*Schedule a quiet time for the whole family to read together.
You, the parent, are the biggest influence on your child. Children under the age of 12 tend to imitate their parents behavior - good & bad - more than any other person in their life. That said, what better way to get them to read then to make it an activity that everyone does together. Try it maybe one night a week at first...turn off the television & everyone cuddle up together on your bed or in the den, or wherever space permits. Set a time limit, maybe 30 minutes, & do nothing but read. No talking or playing, just reading. In my house, we have Power Hour every day for an hour. During that time, we all read (the younger kids take a nap after 30 minutes). Even if the child is not reading independently yet, he/she can look through a stack of books solely entertaining themselves by looking at pictures, with you reading to them for perhaps 10 minutes of the time.

If you enforce one, two, or all of these techniques, I assure you will see a difference in your child's attitude toward reading, over time. And then there's this one little monkeywrench in the whole system, some people just do not like to read. Period, point blank. But I assure you that this is the exception to the rule, & that you will find that most children say they don't like to read simply because they haven't learned the value of doing it.

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