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Teaching kids to read

The more time I spend in early elementary classrooms, the more I realize that reading is one of the truly essential skills that we can teach our kids. Some kids come to kindergarten already reading fluently. Others don’t really get the knack of reading until the third grade, some never really do. So what can a parent do to teach their kids to read?

Some of the answers are obviouse. Read to them. Often. When they try to ‘read’ a book to you, let them. Don’t correct them when they don’t read verbatim, or even when they wander completely off the written page. Early on, ‘reading’ to them is having a story that goes with the pictures. The words on the page have nothing to do with the pictures. Eventually, they will start realizing that the words are, well, words. By this time, they should know, or have a good start on their alphabet. The move to ‘what sound does this letter make’ and ‘what letter does this word start with’ is a natural. There are tons of resources out there to help parents understand how kids learn to read, and to help them teach their kids to read. Phonetics, songs, whatever, pick the method that works best for you and your kid.

One thing that seems to be missing from almost all of the self-help methods is the simple fact that your kid should enjoy reading. How do you encourage that? there are a couple of things that I think make a big difference in how kids perceive reading. Many kids view reading as something they have to do, and as such, it becomes a chore. They will read when they have to , and will probably even get pretty good at it. However, the kids that really excell at reading are the ones that truly enjoy it. How to make your kid enjoy reading? easy. Make sure they know it can be fun. How? here’s my method.

First of all, once your kid is starting to learn to read, don’t stop reading with him/her. I still read with my kids, and they are excellent readers. Having a 15 minute or 1/2 hour reading session before bed is not only excelent family time, but it also shows your kid that reading can be recreational. Read to your kids, but also let them read to you. In my family, each of us has a book that we read to the rest of the family. We pick our books, and take turns reading. Another important part of encouraging reading is to make sure your kids know that you read. If it is Saturday afternoon and you’re sitting around reading a book, you are showing your kid that reading is OK. The more you read, the more your kids will read. As your kids reading skills grow, they will begin to want to read on their own. Let them. Encourage them. Maybe pick an evening a week and leave tyhe TV off to encourage reading time (this is also a great way to encourage game time, interaction, and good family time). A silent living room with 3 or 4 people sitting around reading together is incredibly cozy.

Finally (and this is important) if you want your kid to enjoy reading, don’t force them. There is no rule that says a kid should be reading when they start kindergarten. Some do, some don’t. Don’t try to force your child to be an early reader. Most kids will start reading when they are ready (with your help). Of course, the more the kid sees reading as a good thing or recreational, the more motivation there will be for the kid to read. Naturally, you will have to have books around for the kids to read, so budget for buying books, make regualr trips to your local library (with the kids of course). $25 a month goes a long way to building a library, and the books will get used by all of your kids. Keep books around the house – we have bookshelves in every room. Almost all of the books in our home are ‘family property’ they are not owned by an individual. This means that we share books. Of course, there are a handfull of books that are ‘special’ and are owned by one of us, but they are the exception.

I guess the bottom line is exposure and encouragement. Make all kinds of books available to kids, encourage them to read, and teach them early on that reading is fun. Prove this by reading a lot yourself.

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