May 19, 2011

Raising Readers

Heath and I both love reading. We routinely get lost in books, and that's something we want for our kids. But in today's culture full of televisions, computers and iPad games, reading books doesn't seem to come as naturally as it used to.

So, we've set up a few systems in our house that seem to be fostering independent reading in our kids. Since it's working at our house, I wanted to share!

1. Give them ready access

Since I'm a bit of a compulsive neat freak, I often keep toys behind closed doors, but that rule doesn't apply to books. I keep them out, stored low on an open bookshelf where the kids can always have them available.

2. Let them read their own way

Stone is an emergent reader, so he is often sounding out words and actually reading, but I've always encouraged the boys to "read" independently. Cash and Holden love re-telling stories using the pictures for cues. I love listening to what they come up with and what parts of the story are most memorable to them!

3. Read to them and let them see you reading

I'm always up for reading a book to the kids - and I love when we have company over and the boys declare an impromptu story time. Our Uncle Marc loves to read and is a big reason we have such an extensive little library. There are also times that I ask the boys to read independently and I read a chapter or two of my own book while they do. Kids do what you do, when you model reading, you're setting them up for a very literary future.

4. Take them to the library

I don't know about yours, but our library is so much more than just a place for books! We love storytime at the library and routinely check out their early literacy materials. Cash loves the "Brown Bear, Brown Bear" flannel set and it does a great job teaching him sequencing, which is an imperative pre-reading skill.

5. Limit the electronics

Yes, we have an iPad, and yes, it has some great reading skill builders on it, BUT it is nothing compared to a book and actual reading. I did my masters work in early education and reading recovery close to 10 years ago, so it was way before iPads. There isn't a wealth of research out there either, but there are people working on it. When it comes to television, even educational television, the jury has spoken and the experts agree that it's no replacement for teaching and parenting. Remove these things from your life as much as possible, and take them out of your kids lives too!

6. There's no wrong way to do it

While I'm sure reading in this position for long periods wouldn't be encouraged by a chiropractor, letting your kids do their own thing should be encouraged. They don't have to finish every book they start, let them skip some pages, and even though it's about as boring as watching a pot boil, read them the same book as many times as they want. Yes, over and over and over and over...

And then sit back and watch them share that same book with their brothers. Because that is truly priceless!

I do have a masters degree in early education focusing on reading readiness and recovery, however I have never put my knowledge to work in a classroom of emergent readers, unless you count teaching journalism writing to a bunch of college freshmen. I'm sure lots of research has been done since I obtained my degree, and I'm sure there are many methods you could use to teach a child to read, some are probably even opposite of mine. Please use what worked for our family as a guideline for yours, but know that it is not a guaranteed system.

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