In today’s society few parents have the time or energy at the end of the day to regularly read to their children. School is relied on heavily by many parents to provide children with the skills and tools to encourage reading success. Primary and secondary education is often ineffective in preparing children for the challenges of higher education. Reading to children is the single most valuable act of love and devotion a parent can show to their children, and that will continue to encourage them to read as they get older. What are ways to be effective in encouraging your child to read in the time you have from day to day?
1. Always carry a book and encourage your child to do the same. Children are sponges. Given the opportunity, they will re-enact all that a parent will teach them. Teach them to be prepared by carrying a book, magazine, newspaper, or some other type of reading material everywhere you go with or without them. You never know where there will be a delay of a meeting, waiting for someone or just extra time during lunch. Carrying your material in a fancy bag or sack will add that extra style your child will mimic. Remember, they are always watching.
2. Keep books in plain view to use the publisher’s titles and artwork to draw their attention. Authors are rarely involved in choosing the titles and cover art for their books. This is strategically developed by the publisher who knows the market and how to draw in the readers. Exploit this in your home. Stack or shelve your books to make them appealing to the eye. Keep them well lighted, dust free and orderly. Rarely does a person enter a library or bookstore to go directly to the listing they have come to get. Anyone visiting these places find themselves thumbing through book titles that were never on their minds. Books in your home surrounded by comfortable reading spaces will do the same thing for your child. Many of the books your child has never seen. Display all appropriate ones and they will thumb through them simply out of curiosity.
3. Attend book reviews and author book signings with your child. These happen more often than you think. Although major authors like Stephen King or Ernest Gaines may be inaccessible, many authors travel to promote their books. Your children will be impressed simply because the author’s name and/or face will be printed on the book they own. Now he’s here in person to sign it – impressive.
4. Talk to your children about books their friends read. Nothing goads a child more than for you to know what their friends do. “Mariah, did you know Chanell read the entire Lord of the Rings series over the summer?” Your child may not run to duplicate the effort, but they will begin thinking of milestones of their own with which to impress you. Peer pressure can be used in a positive way to encourage reading and good academic performance as well in your children.
5. Collect used books but occasionally let your child visit the bookstore. Consignment shops and thrift stores are great to generate a collection, but let’s face it: a new book is great from time to time. That new book smell and bright pages make the reading experience more enticing. What’s even more exciting for your child is to be able to spend almost as much as he or she wants on a new book. They will be proud to carry it, brag to their friends and even sit in public and read it. Tattered old, smelly books are great for reading at home, but in public your child needs to avoid the ridicule which an old paperback read hundreds of times may encourage.
6. Keep track of their progress. Seeing those stacks of books collected over the years (starting with “Hop on Pop”) that you’re dying to get rid of for your more sophisticated collection…don’t. Your elementary-aged child still remembers those stories vividly if they were read to them as infants and toddlers. All through elementary school they will take sneak peeks back into those memories, especially as the reading gets more difficult in school. The comfortable feelings you gave them as you read during their formative years provide comfort and confidence that, yes, confirms that I AM a good reader and there is nothing that can take that away. Display those early-age books on the shelf proudly – every now and then one will disappear, then return. As they become more confident in themselves, your children will help you get rid of those books. You might still want to keep “Hop on Pop”.