How can you encourage a love of reading in your child? Studies indicate that children who are confident in their reading abilities demonstrate overall stronger academic performance.
The more that you read, the more things that you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go! -Dr. Seuss
When students are in kindergarten and first begin to learn to read the excitement that they have about reading is contagious. It is as if they have discovered the key to a whole new world and they are so excited to use it. At this age students want to read to anyone and everyone that they can read to and to show off their new-found skills. Unfortunately, as students age the excitement about reading can often fade. By middle school many students become disillusioned with reading and find it to be a chore. Once it becomes a chore, many students stop reading all together.
According to Samuels and Farstrup in What Research Has To Say About Reading Instruction, research shows “as individuals read less, they read less well, resulting in a decline in reading skills and lower levels of academic achievement”. It is critical that students continue to read to help develop their reading skills and to continue to develop higher levels of academic achievement. We know the value of continuing to read and we must find ways to develop continued excitement about reading as students age.
As educators and parents our goal must be to teach students to read but to also help our children to develop a love for reading. The love for reading will have lasting impacts in the life of the students.
Below are tips for how to help your child to develop a love for reading and to prevent the frustration with reading that can often occur as students age.
1) Let students pick books that interest them: In school reading material is often “assigned” to students. The students are told what to read and what their purpose is for reading. Allowing students to have the opportunity to pick books that interest them will keep them motivated to read. Visiting the school library or local public library can help students to browse selections of books to find books that are of interest to them. The librarian can often make suggestions based on student interest. Some students prefer learning about specific topics in nonfiction while other students love to travel to a made up land in a fictional book. If the goal is to get students reading, allowing them to select books that are of interest to them will help motivate students to want to read.
2) Find an author or series that is engaging: Many students struggle to find books that are engaging for them. We all know what it is like to try to read a book that we “can’t get into”. It is hard to force yourself to pick the book up to read it. Students are no different. Many students have a hard time finding the type of book that they want to read and can’t wait to pick up. Once a child finds a particular author or series that they enjoy, it can be beneficial to try other books by the same author or in the same series. Often the writing style is similar in books by the same author or books in a series. If a student enjoyed one book by the author or in the series, encourage them to try others.
3) Movies based on books can spark interest: For students who are not naturally motivated to read, finding books that have also been made into movies or that are about to be made into movies can motivate students to read. The students can read the book and then have the chance to see the movie. This offers the opportunity to discuss the differences and which best portrayed the story.
4) Worry less about reading level and more about interest for leisure reading: As adults we don’t select a book for leisure reading based on our reading level and what books fit within that level. We select books that we are interested in. Often the books that we read are below our level. Though it is important for students to read books within their reading level range, it is not necessary to always push students to read only books at the top of their reading level range. The goal is to create lifelong readers who love reading. If we force students into books that are at the top of their level but they don’t enjoy, students will not want to read. This can lead to students developing a dislike for reading.
5) Read and discuss books with your child: We often think about reading to young children at night. As children age, families often stop reading together. One way to get students excited about reading can be for families to read books together and discuss the book as a family. This can look many different ways based on the age of the child. Parents can read chapter books to younger children and discuss the books as they are read. As students get older, both the parents and student can read a common book and discuss the book. This is a great opportunity for families to spend time together and to bond while also encouraging the students to read. Allowing the student to pick the book that they read together with their parents will help the student to become more excited about reading. This also allows parents to model a lifelong love for reading.
There is such value in developing a life-long love for reading and learning. Educators and parents should be willing to find creative ways to motivate students to continue to want to read and to prevent the burn out that can occur when students are only reading what is “assigned” to them. These strategies are only a few ways to help motivate students to read, but there are so many more ways that families can work to engage students in meaningful reading opportunities.
Mrs. Amy Henderson is the Interim Lower School Principal at Grace Christian Academy. With a love for education and a dedication to students, she inspires faculty members to utilize creative and thought-provoking teaching methods in the classroom.