Friday, November 13, 2009

A Candidly Incomplete Guide to Raising a Reader

1. Be a Reader yourself. Your kids need to see you reading. A lot. And yes, there is a difference between being able to read and being A Reader.

2. Read aloud to them from the time they're born (or even before). Babies can tell the difference in how your voice sounds when you read from when you speak. Read board books, make up stories from magazine pictures.

3. Have lots of books around. I know, duh, but it's that important. And magazines, and things printed off the computer, and...but you get the idea.

4. Use audio books. We use these at our daily "quiet time". My girls have listened to many different books this way (starting with "easier" things like Winnie the Pooh and moving on up to Don Quixote recently). This allows you to introduce your child to wonderful, unabridged literature long before she could read it herself. Long road trip coming up? Skip the portable DVD player and choose a book on c.d. that everyone can listen to (our entire family really enjoyed The Scarlet Pimpernel this way).

5. Limit television. Really, really limit it. Be selective with what shows and videos you allow. Better yet, just get rid of it altogether.

6. If you do have a TV around ( and we do), be vigilant and don't let your child watch a movie adaptation until they've read the book themselves (or you've read it to them). Don't cheat their imaginations by showing them another person's vision first. This means no Narnia movie (old BBC or newer) until they've enjoyed the entire written series. And for goodness sake, no "Little House on the Prairie" TV show until you've read the incomparable books. Trust me.

7. Show them how to use reference material and let them see you use it frequently. Sure, Google is easy. But it isn't really that hard to pick up a dictionary or encyclopedia. Actually, my husband and I have had races for this very thing and I can find something in our multi-volume encyclopedia set just as quickly as he can type something into Google and find the link he needs. Makes for cheap entertainment at the very least!

8. Don't be afraid of series literature. Sometimes it seems we're supposed to look down on these types of books, but as long as you're careful which series are being read, these books go a long way to raising a Lifetime Reader. Series (or "formula fiction") encourage early readers: the characters are well loved, the style is already familiar and the child can just lose themselves in the latest adventure. Around our place we've enjoyed all the American Girl books, The Boxcar Children, Encyclopedia Brown, the Ramona Quimby Books, the Henry Huggins books (OK, pretty much anything by Beverly Cleary), Trixie Belden mysteries and Nancy Drew mysteries, among others.

9. Encourage discussion about books. Sure, you could have a special subject in school for this (we call it narration) but it's even more important that as you talk about what you've been reading (you do talk about it, don't you?) you encourage your children to talk about what they've been reading. This means not being annoyed when your seven year old wants to talk about Ramona Quimby's crazy antics when you and your husband are discussing your own latest reads. (Yes, this has happened at our house.)

10. Keep trying. Read aloud to them until they grow up and leave your home. There's a book (or two or a million) about any subject and any interest. Don't worry so much about grade levels and prestige - finding the genre that makes your child ask, "Are there more books about this?" should be its own reward.


MacKenzie said...

I will definitely be keeping all this in mind.

We didn't have official "narration" but we did talk a lot about the books we were reading. It's still a habit of mine today although it's frustrating when I can't seem to find anyone I know who has read the same book! Poor Craig gets to listen to it even when the subject matter is not exactly his cup of tea. And I still love to listen to books on tape.

Amy said...

Excellent post! I want to add commentary on every single thing you listed, but that would be a long and probably rather annoying comment. I'll just let it be enough to say that I couldn't agree more! Would an 'amen!' be out of place here? ;)

And now, feeling inspired... off to do some reading!

Vicky said...

I couldn't agree more with you on all points! When the kids were growing up, at one point we did not have a TV (we had donated it to Temple Baptist College). During this period of time we spent LOTS of time going to the library for books! They always looked forward to our trip to the library! Me, too, for that matter, because I loved reading to them! Great post!

ispomyju said...

Many thanks have your share..................................................

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