by Rachelle Tannenbaum
Reading is one of the single most important skills that contributes to academic success. In pretty much any field, reading is how we acquire the bulk of our information. Kids who are skilled readers can read more efficiently than their peers, and retain more information. Conversely, poor readers can easily get caught up in a vicious circle: They don’t read because they aren’t good at it, but then because they don’t get enough practice, they wind up falling farther and farther behind their peers.
In this issue of the e-zine, we discuss the steps that parents can take to encourage reluctant readers to explore the joys of books.
If you'd like to learn more, then you won’t want to miss our course “Ready, Set, Read!” (FON 353). Details are on our courses page. Alternatively, you can bring us to your neighborhood and have us offer this or any other course at your school, church, or organization. Contact us today for more details!
THE SINGLE BEST THING YOU CAN DO TO ENCOURAGE ACADEMIC SUCCESS
by Rachelle Tannenbaum
There are a wide variety of skills that contribute to academic success. But study after study has shown that there is one skill which proves to be the biggest contributor of them all: reading.
So how can we ensure that children become proficient readers? As with any skill, the answer to this boils down to one word: practice. One of the most consistent research findings regarding reading is that reading anything will help to develop children's literacy skills. This is true for works of great literature, but also for comic books, the sports pages, and just-for-fun novels. So find out what interests your child, and then build on that. Does he love science? There are tons of books on that topic. Does she have a favorite TV show or movie? Find related books. For example, the Lemony Snicket movie was based on a whole series of books. A child may be more willing to try the book if she’s already enjoyed the movie. The same goes for other popular movies and TV shows such as Eragon and Dora the Explorer.
If you’re not sure where to start, there are many Web sites which can help you find books that are likely to interest your child. One example is the RIF Reading Planet Bookzone, which lets you search based on categories, specific keywords, and age. Another is Guys Read, which suggests books that may particularly appeal to boys. Books like The Day My Butt Went Psycho or the Baseball Card Adventure Series may not sound like your cup of tea, but the promise of reading about butts and farts, or about famous baseball players, may be enough to entice an otherwise reluctant reader.
As with any behavior, children learn from their parents. How can you expect them to be readers if you aren’t a reader yourself? You don’t have to become a complete bookworm, but make sure that you engage in at least some reading. And make sure your kids see you doing it. Remember, “do as I say, not as I do” never works as well as we’d like it to.
If you have younger children who can't yet read on their own, then the key is to focus on what are known as "pre-literacy skills." For example, you can point out words as you read them, and emphasize the connections between letters and sounds. And if you talk about the ways in which you use reading and writing in your own life (such as making a shopping list or reading a magazine), this will send the message that reading is an important and useful method for remembering things and gathering information. Finally, if you read for pleasure, then you're sending one of the most important messages of all: Reading can be fun.
Here are more suggestions that will work for children of any age:
- Create a comfortable reading space. How can your child be expected to focus on a book when he’s distracted by background noise or by an uncomfortable chair? Take your cues from classrooms and libraries: Comfy chairs, carpet squares, and quiet background noise (think soft music) are the way to go.
- Read together. Young children love being read to, both because they love stories and because it’s a time to bond with parents. Even when he has learned to read on his own, you can use this time to explore books that are beyond his current level.
- Restrict television time. Television is much more passive than reading, and is nowhere near as effective. True, there are some shows, such as Sesame Street and Reading Between the Lions, that can help with literacy skills, but they aren't enough by themselves.
- Set aside time for reading. It doesn't have to be a lot of time, but if you designate a set time for the whole family to read, then this will send a message about reading's importance.
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