Wednesday, February 25, 2015

7 Ways to Raise a Happy Reader

I am in no way proclaiming to be an expert in child development, or an expert in reading. I am a mom and a grandmother who loves to read, and my grandchildren love to be read to. They prefer it over television--imagine that.

What are some of the things your parents did to inspire you to read?

Even if your kids are mostly grown, don't think it's too late to start some of these habits. Start from where you are right now.

Here are 7 Ways to Raise a Happy Reader:

First--Start reading to your children before they are born. This is a perfect time to develop the habit of reading bedtime stories.

Hint: I like to give board books as baby shower gifts because a lot of new parents overlook this as a need. They're busy collecting diapers and layettes, and putting up the crib.

Second--Continue reading to them as infants. It doesn't matter what you read, just read. They love to snuggle with you and they love the sound of your voice or the voice of an older sibling.

I bought new books for my far-a-way grandchildren and sent a tape of my voice reading the story to them. When they get older they can follow along in the book.

Third--Be consistent in reading bedtime stories. Every. Night. Make it a part of the nighttime ritual. This is a great time for both kids and parents to unwind from daily rigors and enjoy some quiet bonding moments (okay that's in the perfect world. There will always be times when Life gets in the way, namely sick kids and what-not).

Fourth--Be a good example. Let your kids see you enjoy reading for yourself even if it's only for a  few minutes. Every. Day. Especially the Father figure. Kids are more likely to pick up the reading habit if they see BOTH parents read.

Fifth--When your kids get old enough to show preferences, take monthly or twice-monthly trips to the library and let them pick out their own books. Teach them how to treat books. Make Library Day a certain day of the month. Be. Consistent. Make it something to look forward to like a privilege for chores well done.

Some of my favorites
During the summer, and especially for school age kids, make sure Library Day happens every two weeks. This helps with summertime boredom and keeps kids caught up on their reading skills.

Sixth--As your kids get into school they will need a consistent 20-30 minute reading time everyday, without distractions, without electronics. A nice compromise is to allow them 30 minutes reading time on your eReader, occasionally.

Seventh--Try to make reading time more of a privilege than a chore or punishment. There are so many great Middle Grade books out there that reading will become its own reward soon enough.

Now, with all of that, there will still be some kids who really struggle to read, and it is a chore. Some children have challenges staying focused. Some have challenges like dyslexia. Some have challenges with vision. Before you get frustrated, step back and evaluate the situation, talk with teachers and counselors, visit the eye doctor or pediatrician.

I say this because one of my kids had problems reading in elementary school. It turned out she just wasn't interested in what there was to read at the time. Thank goodness for Nancy Drew books. When my daughter was 10 -11 years old, I saw some at Sam's club in a five-book set. I loved these books growing up, so I took a chance and she loved them too. She wanted more. I did whatever it took to keep her reading. Then, Harry Potter came out. I wish I could give J.K. Rowling a hug for what her books did for my daughter.

Second story: One of my grandsons had difficulty to the point he'd do just about anything to keep from reading. He was taking piano lessons at the time and really didn't like that either. He struggled at school. His parents decided to get his eyes checked, thinking maybe he was getting near-sighted (runs in the family). It turned out that his acuity was okay, but he has double vision. I can't imagine anything more frustrating than trying to read a book or sheet music with double vision. With the help of specific exercises, he is able to focus better and found The Diary of a Wimpy Kid too much fun to put down.

So don't give up. Find a way to share the joy of reading with your kids.