Thursday, April 23, 2015

How to raise a reader

Today, Kathy shares some practical tips on how to foster a love of learning in your children!

Recently, while I conversing with a friend, the topic of reading entered our conversation. My friend was curious as to how my husband and I had raised a reader. Is there a scientific formula she needed to follow? Is there a special reading curriculum? Are there a set of guidelines she needed to follow? In all earnest, my friend was desperate to be let in on the secret of our success. I had to chuckle, because the steps to raising a reader are quite simple. Please allow me to share with you how you too can raise a child who loves to read. 

Fifteen years ago, I reacquainted myself with a book which had impacted my elementary school years in a significant way. The book was Honey for a Child’s Heart, authored by journalist Gladys Hunt. As I progressed from kindergarten through fifth grade this book was on every teacher's desk and recognized as the "gold standard" for promoting literacy and selecting the books which would serve as the class read alouds throughout the school year. After obtaining the original 1969 edition from our local public library, I began to read voraciously. Within forty-eight hours I had finished the book and for the next week I took notes which would become our formula for raising a reader. “A good book is a magic gateway into a wider world of wonder, beauty, delight, and adventure. Books are experiences that make us grow, that add something to our inner stature.” 

As a young parent, I began to look for books through the public library system and local thrift shop which fit this description, using Hunt’s book as a reading resource list. Books which utilized words and art to create a visual feast but also provide genuine substance for intellectual and spiritual development were carefully sought after and obtained. At this time, my husband and I began to set aside a portion of the early evening as family read aloud time. In the early years, picture books classics such as The Snowy Day, Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel, Corduroy, and Dr. Seuss’s Hop on Pop were the nightly fare. As our daughter moved into the primary years, the selection grew to classic children’s books such as Winnie the Pooh, Strawberry Girl, Caddie “Woodlawn, The Twenty-One Balloons and the D’Aulaire’s Benjamin Franklin  The adolescent years have broadened and refined her literary palate. To Kill a Mockingbird, The Hobbit and The Help are among her favorites. 

Reading aloud as a family has allowed us to meet new literary friends. It has provided the opportunity for us to discuss real life situations and to appreciate good writing while becoming closer because of the shared experience. Reading together with your child as they grow and mature will help to strengthen the bonds within the parent child relationship. 
As far as guidelines go, my husband and I have used good old fashioned common sense and implemented these principles:
  1. Provide inviting reading spaces
    We have made it a priority for our child to see her parents reading.
  2. Television viewing and computer time in our home are monitored and limited.
  3. Books and other good reading materials are kept within easy reach. The rooms within our home are comfortable and well-lit, inviting family members to pick up a book and read.
  4. Reading time must be balanced with other activities such as outdoor time.
  5. Reading in bed with a flashlight is encouraged.
  6. A weekly trip to the public library has helped to foster book love.
  7. The tradition of giving books as gifts for birthdays and holidays has helped to create an atmosphere of “bibliomania.” 
If you’re looking for guidance on how to make reading a part of your children’s lives, these principles will help. And remember you’re giving a great gift to your children! In closing, I would like to leave you with a piece of poetry from S. Gilland that has served as our parental compass throughout the years:

"You may have tangible wealth untold, 
Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold
Richer than I can you never can be
I had a mother who read to me."

Thank you Kathy! Readers, what have you done to encourage reading in your family? Share your practical tips in the comments section! 
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