Sunday, April 14, 2013

Developing Readers: Part 1 - Feeling the Love

Everyone knows that reading at home is important. There are Public Service Announcements and slogans (reading is FUNdamental). You've heard it, your kids have heard it, and it is probably the #1 suggestion given by teachers since the beginning of time (read more books, read more scrolls, read more hieroglyphics  read more cave, read, read). So you go home and you try do it. It was easy as cake with your first kid, ah but the second. All kids are different. Some are ready to swim in the deep blue ocean of words while others stick their big toes in and their whole body shivers. What are we missing?
Reading at home should not come across as a form of punishment. It shouldn't be forced. If you have a reader at home that is self-motivated, count your blessings and go click on one of my other totally awesome posts. If you instead struggle trying to figure out simple ways to make your child a better reader, then I've got just that in this first installment of developing readers!

Mastery vs. Misery: 
It doesn't matter who you are, if you don't enjoy a task, then that task becomes monumentally more difficult. It's like clipping your kid's toenails. Your child doesn't want it done, you don't want to do it, but it has to be done. Yeah well, reading can feel just the same. For some kids, it's as enjoyable as clipping someone else's toenails. There are an endless assortment of reading resources available, but none can compare to fostering a love of reading. But just as with relationships, you can't MAKE someone love something. They have to discover love on their own.

Library adventures:
Take your kids to the library and...cut them loose! Let them have a time when their choices are their own. Let them explore and read what they find interesting (keep your parent radar running case they immediately go for questionable material). If they want to read comic books, let them. If they want to read something below what you consider to be their grade/maturity level, let them. If they grab any genre (sci-fi, fantasy, etc.) that interests them, let them. Let it be their choice. Let them take ownership.

It will be different for everyone:
My oldest son Lawson had NO interest in reading. It was like pulling teeth. There was a book he needed to read from the summer reading list (and I just knew he'd love it), and weeks later when I asked how far he'd gotten, he says page 3....PAGE 3!!! I read that book in days as a kid! I LOVED that book! Ahh, but that's the was I that loved it...ME, not him. This first step is going to be a waiting game, but it is worth the investment of time.

Love at first sight (well at first sight of the RIGHT book):
It clicked for my son when he found that first book that he couldn't put down (his first literary "crush"), and after was easy. At that point, once the dam opens, you just keep the water flowing. Of course, the accompanying step is always reading yourself. Model your love of reading at every opportunity. This is something you already likely do, but take it further and share occasionally regarding something you've read. My wife Tracy is constantly sharing interesting facts about nutrition with Tristan (especially gross facts...he loves em). Aside from becoming knowledgeable, he constantly sees a tangible example of her love of reading.

This really is the first and most important step:
Sure, there will always be things he isn't interested in reading, but you've got to prime the mind to understand that reading can be a joyful experience before you go off tackling the boring stuff (you know it's true...some stuff out there is a snoozefest). If all of their academic skills are being built on sand, the structure isn't going to hold up well, and it will only get worse with erosion. Reading tests are all about reading. Science tests are all about reading. Social Studies tests are also about reading. Remember when math really started getting difficult? Oh yeah, word problems....reading again. We need this foundation to be rock solid. Don't get me wrong. It is important as it is to develop skills (and my subsequent posts will hit that), but developing desire is of paramount importance. Without it, your child is going to miss out on something that is simply amazing...falling in love with reading.