BY MARTHA ROGUS, RESEARCH/FREELANCE WRITER, WARREN
Developing a positive reading experience for children can be established at any point in their lives with the right resources, attitude, and actions. Our children are exposed to the influence of television and technology before we know it. Using the influence of TV, technology, and your child’s activities are helpful in gaining a sense of what interests and excites him or her. Children encounter storytelling in a variety of ways, whether it is television or computer games and CDs. Exposure to storytelling at an early age is important for your child’s reading develop, as well as matching your child’s interests to specific books.
Finding the right books or resources is easy. Tune in to their conversations. Find out where your child’s interests are when they are talking to you, their friends, and other people in their lives. Just because they swim at the YMCA does not mean they will like books about swimming. You need to glean information from the way your child reacts to activities, characters, themes, and plots. What your child communicates reveals what excites him or her and is key in bringing meaning to their reading preferences. For instance, when I was young my older sister knew I liked to color. I was around four-years old when she walked me to the Warren Public Library and showed me the Harold and the Purple Crayon collection. I came to love those books and we made a habit of walking to the library for several Saturdays in a row. I read every one of those books on my own, while she read books that interested her. My reading skills took hold well before kindergarten because I found books I intrinsically got excited about, with the help of an older sibling. Her positive attitude toward reading reinforced my positive attitude toward reading.
With regard to positive attitude, I am talking about the parent’s, sibling’s, or caregiver’s excitement or interest in reading. If you don’t like reading, I suggest finding something you do like to read whether it be a magazine or newspaper. My father wasn’t one for reading novels, but he read every National Geographic, Reader’s Digest, and the daily paper, cover to cover. Being excited and interested gets your child exited to read when they see the enjoyment reading brings to the parent or caregiver. My sister was interested in the things she read, which led me to also be interested in what I read. Another personal example was my mother’s enjoyment and sharing of the Dr. Seuss series of books. She found these books humorous and I enjoyed her reaction to the funny rhyming as she read aloud to me, as much as the rhymes themselves. The more the family is positively involved in reading the better your chances of raising a good reader. It may not be the only way, but it is one way.
Actions to develop a positive reading experience not only include regular library visits and providing books at home, but also making a habit of purchasing books for your child’s own collection when that book becomes a favorite. Repetitive reading to the point of memorization sustains reading fluency. Professor of Education at the University of Tennessee, Richard Allington explains, “students who spend more time reading and read more words develop the ability to read fluently and comprehend what they’re reading better than students who do less reading.” And, “higher-achieving students read three times as much each week as their lower-achieving classmates” (as cited in Thompkins, 2006). So, the more the action of reading there is, the greater the chances of your child being a higher-achiever in school. We are lucky to be living during a time when there are books published on every topic available. Make it a habit to visit the library every two weeks and allow enough time for your child to make his or own selections. It’s an ideal situation for the child to select his or her own books, take them home for two weeks, and then return for another batch, and it’s free! In addition to the library, visit the book stores whenever possible and browse the children’s section, both with and without your child. Another great resource is amazon.com, which lists practically all the children’s books in print, and is a great place to conduct searches for finding the books that suit your child’s interests. Once you get a mental picture of what they like, finding the books at the library, bookstore, or online becomes a cinch.
A recent kindergarten student of mine exhibited the same attitude and reading skills I had at his age. When I commented to his mother that she must do a lot of reading with him, she said she didn’t but his older brother did. It is evident the influence siblings, close friends, and family members can have on your child’s reading skills and attitudes. When your child is in junior high and high school, continue to encourage reading. Finding books for older children becomes an easier task than when they are young because they can better articulate their interests. You can request a wish list at Christmas, for birthdays, graduations, or just for the fun of it, for books your child desires to read and own as a teenager and high school student. But, don’t be alarmed when your child goes through spurts of disinterest in reading. That happens to everyone. If they have a strong foundation with the attitude, resources, and actions outlined here at an early age, they will return to the activity of reading at different stages in their lives whether it’s for enjoyment or education because the foundation for reading will have been well established. Provide guidance for their choices when needed and continue to be consistent with your own positive reading experiences and knowledge. And, remember to show interest and excitement in your own reading to instill a positive attitude toward reading in your children!
For more on Professor Richard Allington visit http://edweb.sdsu.edu/people/dlapp/webquest/ppts/RichardAllington.ppt
Thompkins, Gail. Language Arts Essentials. Upper Saddle River: New Jersey, 2006.
Martha is a non-traditional student at Edinboro University working toward her degree in Education with a minor in Creative Writing. She worked part-time for the Buffalo & Pittsburgh Railroad and is a writing consultant for EU’s Writing Center. She has been accepted to two writing conferences as a presenter and had an article published in a 2007 issue of ‘Mother Earth News.’ She has been married for nineteen years and has two daughters, age eighteen and sixteen. She is a member of St. Joseph Catholic Church where she has been teaching kindergarten CCD for over ten years.