March is National Reading Month and Thursday March 2nd is Read Across America Day; A great time to reexamine how you are reading with your children!
Do you want to raise a child who is both kind and successful? I think we all do. Well there is one thing you can do with your kids that has been proven to not only make them more emotionally intelligent; it also makes them more likely to succeed in school and career. It is something that American adults are doing less and less of these days— reading. We are also reading less with our children and our children are reading fewer books as they get older, probably because of the lure of new technology like smart phones with Instagram and Snapchat.
But let us not forget that reading has been connected to not only success in school, but success in life and career. Reading proficiency by third grade is the best predictor of high school graduation and career success, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, but two-thirds of U.S. third graders lack adequate reading skills. Reading has also been proven to make people more intellectually empathetic, and empathetic people have better relationships due to the fact that they are more successful at reading others and understanding their thoughts and motivations. For this reason, people who are empathetic are better leaders, bosses, and coworkers.
So, it is important to make reading a part of your regular routine each school night. But how you approach reading with your child is equally important because they must be interested and engaged in order for this reading time to be rewarding instead of a constant struggle. Here are three tips to make reading with your child (of any age) a successful and rewarding experience:
1. Model the Joy of Reading
If you want to create kids who are readers, they need to see you read. I think when we read on smartphones and tablets, children don’t always connect this to reading. Let your children see you reading a book. Have time where you are reading silently and aloud together. Read the same book as your child so that you can discuss it. Choose a book where there is an opportunity to meet the author or see the movie together afterwards. Look around at your local attractions, historical events, and museums. Choose a book that relates to one of these and then take a family trip to visit. In other words, find ways to incorporate books into the family time that you spend together. This allows kids to see first-hand the connection between books and the world around them.
2. Know Your Child’s Reading Level and then Let Them Select Their Own Books
If reading is too challenging and a constant struggle, children do not like to read. Very few people enjoy doing something that is an extremely difficult for an extended period of time. This is why finding your child’s reading level is so important. Consult with their teacher to find out what reading level is appropriate for your child when reading independently or with an adult. Usually a child will need to read slightly easier books independently than they are capable of reading aloud with adult guidance. Once you know their reading level, let them choose their own reading material based on their interests: books, magazines, graphic novels, or e-books. Encourage your child to keep a list of questions they have about things they are learning and the world around them, and then help them find reading material on these topics. This teaches them that reading is a way to find information and sets them up to be able to learn on their own in the future.
3. Read With Your Children Not Just to Them
Sometimes we get into a routine of reading for a certain amount of time each night before bed and simply read the words of a book aloud to our children. This doesn’t really accomplish much especially for older children who are beyond the decoding phase of reading. Instead, try to involve and engage children in reading.
Before reading, have them flip through the text and make predictions based on the title, headings, or pictures. See if they have any questions about this particular book or topic. During reading, stop to discuss what is going on and ask them questions to assess their understanding. Have them revise their predictions or tell whether their questions were answered. Discuss what the characters’ actions and words mean about how they are thinking and feeling. Ask them to put themselves in the place of the characters; what would they do? Encourage them to imagine what they are reading as if it were a movie in their head.
Making reading something you do with your child as a way for them to explore and answer questions they have about the world will help them to understand the purpose and application of reading to their life. It will support what they are learning in school by helping them to ask their own questions and find their own answers. This curiosity coupled with a mechanism for finding answers is the key to lifelong learning― one that may benefit them personally as well as professionally.
A version of this article was originally published on The Learning Zone.
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