These days, moms should really have the title of “Supermom”. Not only do we have to juggle work, kids, husband, and maybe a little time for ourselves, but we also feel the pressure to make sure our kids are ready to read, if not already reading, before they begin kindergarten. Where does this pressure come from? Does it come from the government and their constantly revised educational standards for our children? Are we inflicting it on ourselves? Perhaps it’s a little bit of both. But is any of it really necessary?
Certainly we want our children to become readers. And we want them to be successful, life-long, engaged readers. But I’m afraid, when the pressure is too great, parents resort to drill and practice in an attempt to get their kids reading. I know it seems so easy to pick up a workbook at the store and have kids practice their letters or sight words. Unfortunately, this is not going to work. In fact, it will probably have the opposite effect. Typically kids will simply disengage from reading altogether because they were never able to connect with reading as a pleasurable experience. I firmly believe that parents are a child’s first teacher. I also believe that we can teach them without stressing them (or ourselves) out! And, you don’t need an education background to do so (let me tell you that my having a degree in education has only added more unnecessary pressure – self inflicted, I’m sure)!
So instead of trying to create reading superstars, what if we just agreed to try to create readers? Happy, healthy, engaged, and interested readers in two simple steps! Here’s how:
- Read aloud every day. Over two decades ago, Becoming a Nation of Readers: The Report of the Commission on Reading (Anderson, Hiebert, Scott, & Wilkinson, 1985) concluded, “the single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children” (pg. 23). In other words, reading aloud to our children is the most important thing we can do for them if we want to create a reader. In his groundbreaking guide for parents, The Read-Aloud Handbook: Sixth Edition, Jim Trelease stated, “The more you read, the better you get at it; the better you get at it, the more you like it; and the more you like it, the more you do it” (2006).
- Encourage children to choose their own books based on interests. I firmly believe that choice is a huge indicator in whether or not a child will enjoy reading. Children have so little control in their lives that choosing books is one thing they can control. Certainly children should be able to choose the books they want read aloud to them, but consider allowing children to choose their own books when in the library or bookstore. . . even if they aren’t of the best quality or at your child’s reading level, you are sending the message that his/her choices are important.
I read to my son every day from the day he was born. I allowed him choice in his reading materials (even when I didn’t want to read it). We played simple games with literacy basics. I did nothing else! I didn’t drill him to death. I didn’t test him on his letters, sight words, etc. Yet, when he began kindergarten he was already reading on a first grade level. I didn’t even know he could read!
That’s it! No need for workbooks or drill and practice. Just simple reading and choice in reading materials.
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