Out of a school of roughly 800 students I was one of the interested goody-two-shoes that attended a presentation entitled, “Reading For Fun, Reading For Life” held by our school’s Title I Reading Specialist, Ann Boyd. I was a little disappointed at the small number or parents that could get away for the one-hour lecture, believing it was indicative of the times with adults finding less and less opportunities to read themselves. I was ready to hear what Mrs. Boyd had to say about getting our children to read, especially when she opened her lecture by saying that there were times when she had chased her own three children around the house while reading from an open book of poetry.
Anyone reading this is obviously a reader already. But how many of us are missionaries on the subject? I have written a column or two on our libraries and feel it’s my duty to enlighten everyone as to the great resource we have in the three we are lucky enough to have here in town. Of course our teachers and Title I experts already know all about our libraries.
The only tidbit I could share, as a missionary, is one way to get more books into homes is to buy the donated ones that are available, and not just during special Friend’s of the Library sales, but everyday. Adult books may range up to $2. But the best deal is on the children’s books: 10 cents a paperback and 50 cents a hardback. Most of them are in decent condition. And I always have a hard time bypassing a favorite we already own. (Valencia may still have that hardback copy of “The Story of Ferdinand” by Munro Leaf if it hasn’t been snatched up yet!)
So I was very interested in what new ideas Mrs. Boyd had to share that I could, in turn, share with Signal readers that want to see their own children develop a love of reading. One of the first things she impressed upon the group was that the reading challenge gimmicks that are used to get our kids to read in school may not be so necessary if we could develop their own interest in reading. Which has a two-fold investment of advancing them toward the kind of self-sufficiency they’ll need in life.
A CHILD IS NEVER TOO YOUNG TO BE READ TO: Don’t stop reading to your child when they have just begun to start. Mrs. Boyd recommended chapter books that parents finds interesting so that our own attention doesn’t wane. Another thing, READ AT YOUR CHILD’S SPEED. Read to your child during the day instead of just at bedtime when you are both tired. Choose a “signal” you can use to alert the other reader to start when you are done in what is called, “paired reading”. Give a ten-minute warning before your child has to switch gears to end his/her activity and begin reading.
Even parents that only speak their own native language should read to their child in that language. Your language will improve your child’s abilities to read, from left to right, when you read to them. It also can create more value to their bi-lingualism. A child that is read to can employ better vocabulary, letter/symbol recognition, better comprehensive skills and MORE INTEREST in books.
WHAT TO READ: A child’s interest can be fostered by catering to them with atlases, cookbooks, activity magazines, internet booklists such as Nickelodeon.com, fiction, non-fiction, newspapers, audio cassettes, poetry, nursery rhymes and teacher or librarian recommendations. Mrs. Boyd suggested reading adult poetry because children can relate to the words and metaphors. They will be more apt to enjoy poetry later in their life if they are introduced to it earlier.
FUN WITH GAMES AND READING: Remember Mad Libs? Stop by the bookstore for this quirky word game that your child inserts his favorite adjectives, nouns and names to create one-of-a-kind stories. Check out board games Scrabble, Boggle, Balderdash and Outburst. Even when your child reaches the “next level” in Pokemon he/she is also reaching the next level in reading. The same thing applies to computer games like the Magic School Bus series. And, if you didn’t know it already, The Signal has more than one page every Saturday for your child to read, write and draw on.
WRITING AND READING: Girls should be encouraged to keep a diary/journal while boys may be more apt to keep a “sports” journal of his own or his favorite team’s activities. Letter writing and thank you notes are good for us all to role model for our children. Mrs. Boyd even had a copy of a hilarious newsletter some of her students did with restaurant and movie reviews, fashion notes, jokes, riddles and sports. She suggested we do one on our blocks at home! Take a color comic page from the newspaper or comic books, use white-out over the words for your child to “write” his/her own story. For smaller children, cut out and have them re-arrange the pictures on construction paper to tell a different story. For a child that makes up mini-dramas: Encourage your child to write out his/her story and then act out serialized drama, complete with stuffed animal or bendable actors, according to their written “script”.
MUSIC AND READING: Use paper to write down favorite real or made up songs, draw pictures to go along with it and sing again later. It’s like a less-expensive version of Karaoke. Another of her creative thoughts would be to give your child his/her favorite CD insert if it has the words printed on them. Because children, as she has tested for herself, have a better ability to learn words, and follow along, when they are paired with enjoyable music.
ROOM ENVIRONMENT: There should be a bedside table, lamp and a variety of reading materials close at hand. Allow your child fifteen minutes (Adjusting your schedule so that bedtime doesn’t run too late on say a school night.) to read alone after you have said goodnight. Don’t worry if they choose easy reading or re-reading when they are on their own as it gives them easy comprehension and enjoyment.
HOME ENVIRONMENT: Your room, your home, your car…sets the example. Visit the library, the museum, limit television all while setting role model reading behavior. Say no to things like too much television now at a young age, Mrs. Boyd cautions, so they can get used to it, and reading, before they become teenagers.
Her final words addressed that a parent is the most critical teacher a child will have. Along with that, she feels it is critical that teachers and parents motivate children. After the lecture ended, my mind reeling, the next day I planned to go over to Valencia library. The trip brought us a few Arthur paperbacks, three audio tapes with books, a comic book, Stevenson’s poetry for children, an old hard back atlas and a Disney how-to make your own Halloween costumes. Well, short of the last one, the one that really sparked Sam’s interest, I thought I was following Mrs. Boyd’s suggestions quite nicely. And, all except for the cassettes that we borrowed, for about $2.60! What are you waiting for? Valencia library, along your child’s attention span, is open and available on Sundays too!