Encouraging Your Child to Read
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, children who read with their parents have a higher intelligence and reading ability and are better able to comprehend language, improve communication skills, speech recognition and verbal ability. Unfortunately, less than 45 percent of parents read to or with their children. So what can we do as parents to change this alarming statistic? Well, let's start with a few simple steps to encourage our children to read.
As a single father of two elementary school aged boys, I've had to get a little creative at times to inspire my sons' interest in reading. And when you're competing with video games, computer games, TV, friends and the line "Reading is boring," well yes, the challenge can be a little daunting. However, the rewards are far greater and, simply put, priceless.
So let me suggest a few of the simple steps that I have taken to encourage my sons to read – who, by the way, are both several grade levels ahead not only in reading skills, but also in writing, spelling and math. And with a little time and patience, I believe your children will come to discover the joy, the wonders and the opportunities of reading.
- Read to or with your child at least 15 minutes a day. I read to my 9-year-old son every night before bedtime, and then we do a word search puzzle together. During this time, my 12-year-old son reads a book to himself. Many times, all three of us make up our own stories and share them with each other. Sometimes, we simply talk about our family history before saying goodnight.
- Make going to the library or bookstore a regular family outing. My sons and I go the library at least once a month – sometimes we check out books, sometimes we don't, but the reading vibe is there. And believe it or not, my sons actually ask me to take them to the bookstore, sometimes to just "hang out." But we always seem to read something while we're there.
- Find books or articles that your children are interested in and join in on their enthusiasm about the subject. This is key to their continued desire to read.
- Subscribe to magazines that are appealing (and appropriate) to your child and have the publication address to them. Once again, be involved with your child's interest in the subject.
- Read the same books that your child is required to read for school assignments and talk about them over dinner, in the car or at bedtime. My sons love the fact that I read "their" books! And not only can I discuss the stories or subjects with them intelligently, but I can also help them with their book reports at a moment's notice. By the way, since I've been "reading along" with them, neither has scored less than an A on their book reports. Coincidence? You be the judge.
- Pick up a few crossword puzzle and word search books for their skill level. Have fun doing them together. Or maybe while you are doing the dishes or driving in the car, your son or daughter can give you the clue and, collectively, find the answer. Also, both books are great at bedtime!
- Reading should be fun! Entertaining! Please, please, please, don't associate reading with punishing or disciplining your child. Sending your child to his or her room "to read" for a punishment has a very negative and damaging effect on the joys of reading. I think it's best to keep reading out of the penalizing arena.
- Volunteer at your child's school. I know what you're thinking: "How in the world am I going to find time to do that?" Well, if there's a will, there's a way – even if it's just once a month or every other. Go in and read to your child's class. The benefits, the positive impact, will be amazing! You help the kids, the teacher, yourself. C'mon, try it. When you see the looks on those kids' faces as they hang on your every word, you'll know that you are making a difference in their lives. And the feelings you'll receive inside? You've got it: priceless!
Think about the following statistics while you're on your way to pick up your child from school today:
- More than one million children without basic reading and writing skills drop out of school each year.
- Since 1983, more than 10 million Americans reached the 12th grade without having learned to read at a basic level.
- Forty-four million adults in the United States cannot read a simple story to a child.
Yes, encouraging our children to read can be daunting. But what better gift can we give them than the gift of literacy?