Teaching children to enjoy reading is a challenge for which there is no foolproof method, as indicated by the less than ideal reading levels among our nation’s youth. For example testing shows that nationally 26% of America’s eighth graders are functionally illiterate.
Despite the endless political, educational and philosophical debates about the cause of our children’s reading problems, there is one point about which all sides are in agreement: The most important factor in whether a child learns to read is whether or not their parents encouraged them to enjoy reading. Unfortunately that unanimous agreement evaporates when the discussion turns to precisely what parents can do to encourage their child to enjoy reading. However there are a few practices about which there is a general consensus over what encourages reading enjoyment in children, and here are some of the major ones:
There is perhaps no single practice that a parent can do to encourage their child to enjoy reading that is more effective than reading to them aloud. It works on two levels by both entertaining the child and showing them by example that reading matters to their parents. This positive reinforcement can be strengthened even further by setting aside a regular time for reading aloud so your child gets the impression that reading is a routine part of a normal day.
Don’t Be Overbearing
While expressing enthusiasm towards reading is a plus like anything it can be overdone. If you create a high-pressured, demanding attitude towards your child’s reading, instead of experiencing enjoyment your child will experience stress. This will soon backfire and cause your child to be repelled by books rather than attracted to them. Take it easy, reading is supposed to be fun, not a drill or a test the child must pass to please Mommy and Daddy.
Let the Child Choose
We all have books that we think children should read, and there is no harm in introducing your child to those books. But on the other hand don’t be a dictator when it comes to the reading material. Let the child choose on their own some of the books to be read aloud. That way they are more likely to enjoy the book and feel invested in the reading experience as a reflection of their own interests. It also helps to praise the books they choose, even if it may not be the one you would have picked to read.
It can be helpful to pause in the course of reading a book to your child and make comments that will help the child connect the events in the book with things in real life. This can be done in the form of asking a question such as, “Does that car in the picture look like our car?” You can also just pause to discuss what is happening in the story, both to ensure that the child understands but also to encourage the child to express an opinion of their own.
About the Author: Brianna Kelly has over 5 years experience publishing articles on preschool education and parenting. She writes on a regular basis for www.giraffe.ie.