By Ann Douglas
From the print edition, May 2012
Teachers and librarians have an important role to play in getting kids excited about reading, but never underestimate parental influence. You were your child’s first storyteller, and now that she is learning to read, you can tap into her enjoyment of stories to encourage a lifelong love of reading.
1. Help your child understand how stories work. Tell your child a story (it doesn’t have to be a long one) and then encourage your child to tell you a story too. (Tip: You can help your child develop her storytelling skills by prompting her with “And then what happened?” if she seems unsure about where to take her story next.)
2. Have fun creating stories together. Contribute one sentence to the story, then encourage your child to contribute the next, and so on. The results can be zany and hilarious.
3. Read with your child while he’s learning to read. Reading is hard work for a beginner—such hard work, in fact, that a child who is focusing on decoding the words on the page can quickly lose track of the meaning of the story. Read one sentence or one paragraph and have your child read the next. This will help keep the story alive for your child. “If your child is getting tired or frustrated, just take over,” suggests Bridget Kelley, a teacher at Stuart W. Baker Elementary School in Haliburton, Ont.
4. Show interest in the book your child borrows from the school library. Ask him what it was about the book that caught his eye. Whatever you do, “don’t dampen your child’s love of reading by criticizing his choice of a library book,” cautions Kelley. If he’s chosen a book that seems too easy for him, he may love the fact that he can read it with confidence. Let him experience the joy of being a confident, competent reader. If he has chosen a book that seems far too difficult, read it with him so he can benefit from the content and be inspired to improve his reading skills so he can tackle books like this one on his own.
5. Let your child see how much you enjoy reading. “Let your kids see you reading,” says Karen Dumas, a primary teacher and teacher-librarian at Kent Elementary School in Agassiz, B.C. “It doesn’t matter what you’re reading— newspapers, magazines, books; something in print or something online. What matters is that your kids see you reading.” It’s particularly important that boys see men reading, adds Kelley. “A lot of boys think of reading as something that girls do.”
Looking for more? Check out our list of 20 chapter books that will hook school-aged readers.
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