For kids with reading and learning problems, a daily dose of reading can be a major path to improvement. But any kid can benefit from the close, one-on-one time with a parent that comes from sharing a book together. And reading with a child by your side, listening and responding, can be a source of relaxation and affirmation for parents, too.
Time Required: About a chapter's worth
- Pick material your child shows an interest in. Use your child's obsessions to lure him or her into reading. That may mean that instead of reading the latest Newbery Medal winner, you'll be reading a TV-show novelization, a teen magazine, a car manual, a comic book. But you'll be reading. Together.
- Schedule a set time each day. Maybe lumping reading in with homework works to make it a routine; maybe using it as a reward for doing homework works better; maybe right after dinner or right before bed. If you set a regular time as reading time, you may have to fight less to make it happen.
- Pick a comfortable place. Comfortable for your child, that is. On your lap, on the floor, on the sofa, on her bed, in the kitchen, on his bean-bag chair, on a porch swing, under a play tent -- wherever your special reading spot is, use it as a way to transition your child into reading time.
- Don't demand full attention. Ideally, your child will be sitting beside you, hanging on every word. And obviously, you don’t want him or her watching TV or playing on a computer while you sit and read to yourself. But if your child is able to listen -- and more comfortable doing so -- while playing with a toy, or hiding under a blanket, let it be, at least at the start of your reading time. With luck you can lure him or her to full attention with a good story and a spirited reading.
- Read with enthusiasm. Get into the story. Use different voices for different characters. Use your voice and facial expressions to convey the characters’ emotions. Perform for your child, and you’ll have a much better chance of captivating him or her with the power of the written word.
- Take turns reading. If your child is old enough to read, that doesn’t mean you have to give up reading to him or her. Pick reading material that’s well within his or her reading ability, then take turns reading out loud, every other page or even every other paragraph. If your child’s too young to read, choose books with repetitive passages or parts that clearly echo the pictures and invite your child to chime in by memory. Make reading together reading together.
- Ask questions. If you hit a word you think your child doesn’t know, ask him what he thinks it means. Have your child predict what will happen next. Ask how she thinks a character is feeling. If something in the story reflects something that has happened in your child’s life, discuss that. Make each book a unique experience based on the exchanges the two of you have.
- Take it a chapter at a time. You don’t need to read for long periods to make your reading time valuable. With reluctant readers in particular, just a chapter a day or four or five pages for books with longer chapters can be enough to create a positive reading experience without wearing them out.
- Keep track of all those books. Counting the number of picture books you read to a young child may be excessive -- particularly because they so love to read the same ones again and again -- but once you get into chapter books, set up a chart or other visual aid to keep track of how many titles you’ve read together. Even at a chapter a night, the list will quickly grow, and adding a title will give your child -- and you -- a feeling of accomplishment.
- Don't let this be the only time your child sees you reading. Read with your child, but also read for yourself, and let your child see that it is a pleasurable experience that adults take part in even when there’s no parent or teacher to make them. If you’re not a reader yourself, do just what you did for your child -- use your interests to find some sort of written matter to look at. Make sure your child sees you looking, too.
- Reward your child for reading with Motivating Bookmarks that can be traded in for rewards after 10 books, chapters, or even pages if necessary.
- The teacher-supply site Really Good Stuff has lots of tools and toys for encouraging reading, including the EZC Reader device, which allows you to highlight a line at a time as you read to help your child follow along.
- If you want to find out more about read-aloud techniques that help get reluctant readers more interested in books, a great place to start is Mosaic of Thought by Ellin Oliver Keene and Susan Zimmermann.
- More ways to make this the best school year ever.
What You Need
- Books that interest your child
- Time set aside just for reading
- A comfortable place to read together
- Consistency and patience
- A love of reading of your own wouldn't hurt