In today’s world of fast paced, high speed, high definition, surround sound world of television and video games, parents are finding it more and more difficult to get their children to read. It is difficult for words in black ink written on white paper to compete with interactive, colorful, audio-filled games in which children actually participate in stories and games. The use of the imagination to enter into a fantasy world is no longer required. It can now be done with a CPU, a controller, and a flat screen television.
Technology does not mean that reading has lost its importance, though. If anything, reading has become even more important. On screen instructions and databases filled with information make it essential for our children to learn to read. Spelling/syntax becomes important as we input URLs to go to various websites; we cannot always rely on spell check.
How do we get our children to read? What can we do as parents to encourage our children to read?
First and foremost, set the example. Make sure that your child sees you reading daily. Read the newspaper or a magazine. Leave your favorite book sitting by your chair and pick it up to read rather than switching on the television. If you are researching on the Internet as your child to read the screen with you; if your child has a question that you cannot answer off the top of your head, have him or her use a search engine to find the answer and then sit at the computer and read the information together.
All of the coercing in the world will not help if you do not model reading for your child.
Children mimic what we do as adults. Children imitate their parents. If parents are addicted to television, their children will pick up on that and watching television will become a habit. By the same token, if we as parents read our children will be more inclined to read as well.
Take this one step further and read to and with your children. Begin reading to your child while he or she is an infant. There are many children’s books in print today that are marvelously suited for this type of activity. Pick several and keep them handy. As you sit and feed your child or rock your child to sleep read a story out loud. It’s simple and it will begin to instill a desire to read at an early age. As your child becomes older, share the pictures and photos in the book as well.
Once a child begins to read on their own, it is important to make available to them books, stories, and articles that will capture their interests. In the early years, children respond well to reading stories in which they are characters; books that contain their name as an actual character. You may want to write your own short stories for your child to read or you may choose to take advantage of the numerous websites that have sprung up that offer book writing services. In most cases, you simply supply your child’s name and the names of friends and pets and then the author incorporates these into a book that can either be read on-line, printed and then read, or may be bound and mailed to your home. The possibilities are endless and once you capture the child’s interest in the reading material the desire to read increases.
Set aside specific times each day to read. Make it a family affair. Don’t limit the reading material that you read together as a family. Read the classics; read novels; read newspapers and magazines; read recipes; just read and read together.
Do not use the television as a baby-sitter. Do not turn on the one-eyed monster to entertain your children while you do tasks at home. If you have to prepare a meal, rather than have your child watch a television program have him or her read you the recipe. You can probably turn this reading experience into a math lesson as well, as you discuss ½ cup or the difference between a teaspoon and a tablespoon.
Saturday morning cartoons are great, but so is Saturday morning reading time together. And you don’t have to stay indoor to read, either. Take your book out on the patio along with a cold soda and get some sunshine as you and your child. Take a stroll to the park and read together while sitting under the trees. It’s perfectly okay, too, to put the book down and utilize the playground as well. Combining physical exercise with mental exercise makes for wonderful family time.
The secret to encouraging your child to read is really no secret. Just start them reading early and read to them and with them. Make reading a family activity and your child will set good reading habits that will stay with him or her for a life time.