Every parent wants their child to be successful in school, but for some, despite best intentions, success seems elusive. Kids don’t like the homework, the school lunch, the teacher, or their new-year excitement quickly fades.
What makes one child more successful in school than another? There are many factors, to be sure, but if you pressed this former teacher and parent of two very enthused and happy students, I would have to say READING. Why? Because reading is a vehicle to so much knowledge, entertainment and skills.
As a former high school English teacher, I rarely if ever encountered a strong writer who wasn’t also a strong reader; I think this is because reading well-written material provides a model for writing. Math requires good reading skills for word problems. Families who read together have a template for life-long learning. So how to incorporate more reading into your home?
Here is my Reading Recipe for Success:
1. Read TO your kids.
I started reading to my children when they were infants just home from the hospital, which had given us a picture book of bold black, white and red shapes that seemed to fascinate and stimulate my kids when they were babies. Soon after that, they enjoyed the board books that they could explore with their fingertips: fuzzy puppies to pet, buttons to press, etc. When they were big enough to follow a story, they enjoyed all the classics: Dr. Seuss, Where the Wild Things Are, Little Critter, etc.
2. Read WITH your kids.
When their attention spans got a little longer, say around age 5 or 6, they began to enjoy easy-to-understand chapter books from such series as Junie B. Jones and Little House on the Prairie. When they could read to themselves, I still read to them. Why? Because they may be mature enough for complex plots and character development, but frustrated by new vocabulary or longer sentences. Although my daughter reads very well, certain books, like the Harry Potter series, would have discouraged her to read on her own because of the rich vocabulary, British idioms and complex sentences.
By listening to me read it aloud, she got to hear the flow of the language, learn new words, and use her imagination to paint vivid scenes in her head. On her own, she could read the Roald Dahl books and The Name of This Book Is Secret series, and excellent one introduced to us by her teacher. My son has enjoyed Flat Stanley, Goosebumps and Diary of a Wimpy Kid. When he went through a reluctant reader phase, I resorted to the ace-in-the-hole for boys, Captain Underpants. Guaranteed to get any boy reading. Just be prepared for a LOT of potty humor around the house.
3. Read IN FRONT OF your kids.
Even when they get too old to let you read to them, make sure your kids still see YOU reading. Even though they may not admit it anymore, you’re still their biggest role model. Nagging them to read will mean nothing if you don’t do it. Hardcover classic, pulp fiction paperback, New York Times, National Enquirer, laptop or Kindle, it doesn’t matter – just model a lifelong love of reading. It also helps to tune in to what your kid or teen likes to read, and make that material available, as gifts, trips to the library or a Kindle.
When I taught high school English, I would bring in the (high school appropriate) books that my husband and I had finished and leave them on a shelf for any students who wanted them. One eager young Sci-Fi fan made off with my husband’s entire discarded collection of Star Wars novels. It was both amusing and very gratifying. Try feeding your kids’ love of reading….you’ll be glad you did.
What books have your kids enjoyed? Share in the comments!