Okay, so your child loves to watch television, play video games, surf on the Internet, and listen to music. And there’s nothing wrong with those activities, as long as they’re used in moderation. Most parents would also love to see their kids participate in more constructive activities—like reading children’s books—but the trick is to get your little ones to actually sit down and crack open a book a few times per week.
One way to start is by sitting down and reading aloud to your children. By reading aloud to your kids, you’re showing them how to enjoy children’s books, the English language, the wonders of a good story, and hopefully, you’re instilling a love of reading and learning. Many kids associate books with the drudgeries of school and homework, but you want to show them how a well written children’s book can be an exciting adventure, a real pleasure, as their imagination takes them to places they’ve never been to visit with people and characters they’ve never met.
According to a recent US government study, there’s a direct relationship with reading aloud to your children and childhood literacy rates. Reading children’s books and other materials to your children is not only a great educational head start for pre-school, but also a wonderful social activity, and a chance to spend quality time with your kids.
Reading to children is shown to have a positive effect on children’s literacy outcomes, the government report concludes. Through experience with books, children gain important exposure to written language. They begin making connections between the spoken word and the printed word. Policymakers contend that it is important to read to your child.
Regrettably, few children today seem to read for pleasure. In one study, only 7 out of 10 9-year-olds said that they enjoy reading as a pastime, compared with 78% five years ago, while for 11-year-olds, the proportion has declined from 77% to 65%. Children said they preferred watching television to going to the library or reading. But the biggest changes in attitudes were among boys. In Year 6, only 55% of boys said they enjoyed stories compared with 70% in 1998.
So getting your children — especially males — to read, and enjoy reading, is a real challenge these days. And again, one way to tackle that challenge is to read to your children aloud. One technique is to make reading a children’s book a game, an interactive adventure that you can both enjoy. After all, this is another way to spend some quality time with your kids, which is what they want anyway.
Another way to use children’s books and literature to teach is through the so-called “Charlotte Mason” method. In this method of teaching, the child “tells back,” in his or her own words, a short book or poem, or a chapter of a longer book. The child is forced to focus on the story, and understand its meaning. This type of verbal narration is especially effective in younger children who may not have the writing skills necessary to put their thoughts down on paper.
The goal is to get your child to open a book for fun, on their own, without prodding from you or their teachers in school. I can remember my own excitement and fascination when I discovered the Lord Of The Rings trilogy as young teenager, and how many hours of entertainment and enjoyment I culled from the pages of that classic fantasy series.
Kent Johnson – Reading Expert and Career Coach
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