Reading “Facts of Life”

It’s pretty simple… More than 30 years of education research boils down to these two basic facts about reading enjoyment and achievement (from Jim Trelease, The Read-Aloud Handbook (7th edition), pages 6-7). Right now, we are the sole influences in our child’s reading lives. We must be modeling reading for them (I think I may need a whole post on that…), we must make reading pleasurable for them, and we must ensure that they are reading (both listening to books and reading/looking at books).

Because remember, as humans, we do things over and over again when they bring us pleasure, and we avoid things that bring displeasure or pain. Is reading pleasing to your child? What can you do to make the at-home reading experience more pleasurable?

And, just like riding a bike, hitting a baseball, or playing the piano, in order to get better at reading, we must practice it. The more we read, the better we get at it. Over and over again, research findings show that “students who read the most also read the best, achieve the most, and stay in school the longest.” (Trelease, page 7)

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So, what are you doing to make reading pleasurable for your children? A few ideas:

  • Let your children get comfortable while they read. I don’t know many adults who read for pleasure while sitting straight in a hard chair at a table or desk.
  • Have them choose a special “reading buddy” stuffed animal to snuggle while they read.
  • Provide snacks.
  • Play music in the background. Stop by this post to see more about what music we listen to and why!
  • If you’re reading aloud and your children aren’t into it, reflect on what you can change. Do you need to abandon the book? Abandon it boldly… there’s no reason to stick with a book no one is enjoying! Do you need to choose a different time to read? Sometimes our girls are just done with the day by bedtime, so our best reading happens over breakfast and/or lunch.
  • If your child isn’t into a chosen independent reading book, encourage him to abandon that book, too. Remember the focus is on making reading pleasurable!
  • Let your child have choice over what she reads! If you’re truly worried she’s stuck in a rut, not challenging herself, or not reading “good” literature, then try finding 5 books you’d like her to read and let her choose from them.
  • Try to read aloud and make time for independent reading every day. It’s not actually reasonable to expect it to happen every single day, so don’t beat yourself up if you miss a day. But, set that bar high so that it happens regularly!
  • Save comprehension questions and quizzes for school. If you’re dying to know how well your child understands what he’s reading, then ask basic open-ended questions such as “Who was the bravest character you read about today? What did she do that showed courage?” and start a conversation rather than a quiz.

Remember the key points above — your children will want to do over and over again that which brings them pleasure, and the more they read over and over again, the better they’ll get at reading (and the more they’ll want to do it… and the better they’ll get… and so on).

What makes reading pleasurable in your homes?

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