Monday, January 29, 2018

For the Love of Reading

"I don't like to read."  Oh, if I had a dollar for every time a student said that to me.  Now I know that reading is not going to be everyone's favorite activity.  (How sad it makes me to type those words!)  For many students I've noticed their dislike of reading stems from a lack of positive reading experiences or difficulty with reading ability.  A person's experience with literacy early in life will shape their future reading habits.  It's important to encourage your children by reading with them regularly and finding ways to make it enjoyable.  So here are five mostly free ideas to help you encourage your child to read and improve their literacy skills!

Cook Up a Love of Reading
Maybe you're not like me and obsessively scour Pinterest for delicious new recipes to try.  Or maybe you are... I won't judge!  Either way you are probably reading recipes at least once every few weeks if you cook at home.  When you do, have your child join you!  It might not be a picture book, but it is reading.  Your child will be able to see words that are unique to cooking and even practice some math skills such as measurement and fractions.  And I can bet that if your recipe involves chocolate chip cookies that your child gets to eat at the end they won't complain one bit!

Our little girl's first trip to the library!
Professor Plum, in the Library....
There is a resource you might not be using - your public library!  Now I know what some of you may be thinking.  "Katie, you're a librarian.  Of course you would tell me to go to the public library.  But does anyone REALLY use the library anymore?"  Yes, my friends.  Yes they do.  And for good reason!  The library has free books - which is wonderful!  But they also have great activities to encourage literacy, such as story times and summer reading programs.  At our Public Library kids can earn free prizes at the summer reading program.  Plus they set their own goal, so if your child isn't an avid reader they won't have to spend 30 minutes a night to get the prizes.  Take a look at what they have to offer, and try to think outside of the box.  Make trips to the library a fun family activity.  If there's a park nearby, pack a lunch and eat in the park while reading the books you just checked out.  Or find non-reading activities and use those as a springboard to get your child excited about reading.  Does your child like Legos?  See if your library has a Lego Club (ours does!) and then encourage your child to check out a Lego related book at the library while you're there.

Comic Books, Graphic Novels, and Magazines... Oh My!
There is an idea that I have seen as I worked in education and the library that I wish would disappear.  People think that in order for reading to help a child's literacy skills they must always read "quality books".  Now this can mean many different things to different people, but where I have seen it most is a bias against items such as graphic novels and comic books.  They have too many pictures, they don't have quality story lines, they aren't at the child's level... there are various reasons.  According to the Educational Testing Service*, children with a wider variety of reading materials at home are higher in reading proficiency.  So let your child read a comic book!  Is it too difficult for them?  Read it together!  If it fosters a love of reading for your child it is a valuable resource.  Then use that comic book to branch out to other reading materials, such as picture and chapter books with similar characters or nonfiction materials about writing comic books.

Our sweet fur baby!
Reading is for the Dogs
Let me just start by saying whoever came up with this idea was genius!  Some libraries and dog shelters have started programs where children can come read to dogs.  The children get to practice their reading with a furry friend who won't be judging their ability to read the words.  At our library the child picks out a few books to read during their waiting time.  When it is their turn the child reads one book to a trained service dog who listens patiently.  This is an amazing program and I fully intend to get Abby involved with it once she is old enough.  Check and see if your public library or dog shelters in the area have a similar program.  (And if they don't, suggest the program!  You can also
have your child read to a pet that belongs to you or a family friend.)

Silly Parents, Books are for You!
This is a big one and, in my opinion, one of the most important.  What we do speaks much louder than what we say.  If we value reading and literacy and try to instill that in our children, what better way than making sure we model this as adults!  When your child sees you taking time out of your busy schedule to read, you are showing them it is something that is important.  Kids love to try and be "grown ups" like their parents and this is one behavior you won't mind them copying.  Does this mean you must read every single day on your own?  No, of course not.  But try to find time to read your own material - and let your child see.  Maybe have a time once a week where you cuddle with your child on the couch and both read your own book.  If you're not into books choose a magazine or newspaper.  The important thing is to model the habit of reading that we wish to instill in our children.

So there it is.  Five things you can do to encourage your child's love of reading and literacy skills.  Do you have any ways that you help your children learn to love reading?  Share them below!

*For more facts about children's literacy, visit

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