Published : Wednesday, May 3, 2017 | 12:50 PM
In a world that is constantly fighting for our children’s attention with flashing buttons, crushing candy, and YouTube, it is no wonder that it is getting increasingly difficult to get children to read. You are not alone in the struggle to shift your child’s thinking, from reading as a chore to reading for pleasure, as educators and parents everywhere scour for techniques to help children develop a love for reading.
I spoke to New Horizon Pasadena elementary school teachers, Kristie Hassanien, Karen Littlefield, Faiza Seedat, and Ellen Hajjali who shared some effective strategies they use in their classrooms to get their students excited about reading. Here are five ways you can encourage your child to read.
1. Set the Scene.
Second grade teacher, Mrs. Kristie Hassanien, recommends having an allocated cozy area just for reading, noticing that students gravitate towards that area, even if they normally do not like reading. You can use items like cushions, beanbags, rugs, and fairy lights to create a warm and inviting atmosphere that your child will want to enjoy. You can take it to the next level by getting your child to make their very own reading fort. Your child will delight in the opportunity to read in a space that they created and can suddenly make a book seem much more interesting.
For children who struggle to read on their own, giving them a reading buddy can change everything. Mrs. Faiza Seedat partners her fourth graders with first graders and allocates time for them to read together. The fourth graders take pride in teaching the younger children to read, and the first graders relish in the time they get to spend with the older children. Anything that makes children look forward to the act of reading can push them to read more when alone. Third grade teacher, Mrs. Ellen Hajjali, also notices a significant difference in those children who read with their parents or siblings at home. “The story becomes more real when you have someone to share it with,” she says.
3. Show them how excited you are.
Instead of constantly nagging your children to read, talk about what you’re reading. Don’t treat it like a chore that you need to constantly berate them to do. Kindergarten teacher, Ms. Karen Littlefield, says, “Seeing other people get excited about reading, especially those the kids look up to, makes them want to be excited about reading, too.” So, practice what you preach, and get reading!
Every second week, Mrs. Seedat has Flashlight Friday in her classroom, during which the lights are dimmed, and students grab a torch and find a hiding spot in the room to read. Hiding in the nooks and crannies of her classroom with a book and torch sparks an excitement in the students and makes them look forward to the act of reading more. Turning reading into a game by getting children to read in different places or in interesting ways is a great way to make reading less monotonous and more exciting.
Kristie applies the same theory in another way in her classroom. She reads poetry by Jack Prelutsky with her students who are entertained by the rhymes that often tend to be funny or silly. The students hold a ‘Poetry Cafe’ at the end of the year where they get in costume and use props to share some of their favorite poems with their parents. She finds that associating reading with fun is very effective in building strong reading habits.
5. Let them choose.
Understand that reading will never be fun if you always dictate to your child what they can and cannot read. Give them options and show them that the world of books is vast and diverse. Often parents find that their child will go through phases in which they only read one kind of book and will try to pressure their children to read more ‘educational’ books. Don’t despair about your child’s reading taste. Encourage them to read what they are interested in, whether that happens to be encyclopedias or superman comics! Seek out your local public library to talk to the children’s librarian about what authors and book series that might appeal to your child’s specific interests. With a variety of choices at hand, your child can dive into reading in new and exciting ways.
New Horizon School Pasadena is a fully accredited and nationally recognized Blue Ribbon School, committed to providing an enriching education experience for students from Preschool to 8th grade. Find out more at http://newhorizonschool.org/.