The Importance of Reading to Children

From January to March, I tutored a handful of middle school boys in an after school program aimed to teach reading strategies. I learned two things:
  1. I'm not a natural teacher, and
  2. If there is a lack of motivation, all the strategies will be futile.
Now, most of these boys were pretty sharp. Towards the end of the program, I would bring word games like Scrabble and Quiddler, and they enjoyed the challenge of finding good words. But these 6th graders (and one 7th grader) struggled with reading out loud, and their ability to comprehend what they read.

The Read-Aloud Handbook

Earlier this year, I finished reading a book that a friend bought me, The Read-Aloud Handbook (Jim Trelease). The main premise of the book is that reading aloud to children (starting at infancy, and continuing through the teenage years) is crucial to their learning and success. The book is full of examples, research, and resources that I found helpful, and that I think you will, too.

While I enjoyed the book, two things bothered me as I read it:
  1. The author reiterates his main principle ("Read to your children.") over and over and over and . . . . Every chapter is a variation on this same theme. But to his credit, I appreciate him sticking to the main point, and his thorough research supported his premise.
  2. His thesis came across as a "formula with a promise" -- that if you do A (read to your children every day), then you will get B (happy, smart children). I fear that parents might read this book and put their hope in a process, instead of the Person of Jesus Christ. Also, what does it mean if you do this and your child does not love reading or do well in school? Is that a cause to lose hope or get discouraged?
Nonetheless, Trelease's research and examples should encourage us to read to our children, and to encourage other parents to do the same. Instructing other parents of these principles is especially important if you are engaging a culture where education is not generally valued and encouraged.

Personal Lessons Learned

Some of the main principles that I gleaned from this book include:
  1. Adults need to set an example.
  2. Quantity over quality.
  3. Screen time is a detriment.
  4. Teach children to focus.

 

Example Set by Adults

During our summer camp, we had a 30-minute "book club" every day. One change we made this year was requiring that all adults leaders must also read, not use that time to get ready for the next activity (as I wrote about here). And when we had teenager leaders and out of town guests, they had to grab a book and read as well.

Children need to see that we learn by reading. If a teacher (or parent) doesn't have a love for reading, it will be nearly impossible to pass that on to the child.

Quantity over Quality

I was surprised that the author had a general promotion of comic books and other "mindless" literature. I would have imagined that he would heavily favor non-fiction books, and a select few series books.

But there are some advantages of encouraging the quantity (versus quality) of reading, especially for children in elementary school. First, we adults read for pleasure, so why shouldn't our children do the same? Comic books, children's magazines, and similar literature encourages a child to take pleasure in reading. Connecting pleasure and reading is especially important for young boys. Over 200 years ago, author Samuel Johnson penned,

"I am always for getting a boy forward in his learning. . . . I would let him at first read any English book which happens to engage his attention. . . . He'll get better books afterwards."

Second, comic books provide an advantage in that they require the child to decipher the sequence of events. This skill is important in reading comprehension, social studies, problem-solving, science, etc. (Note: Trelease does not encourage a steady diet of comic books, but for this genre to be used as a primer for deeper reading.)


We killed two birds (not literally) during our summer camp by buying two copies of The Action Bible. This Bible-storybook in graphic novel format is attractive to boys, and was read every day. Plus, while we couldn't teach the Bible in our camp, we could make these books available for children to read during our Book Club, so they could learn about the Bible.

Third, reading a variety of literature increases the breadth of knowledge and experience. As this knowledge bank gets larger, he or she will be able to make connections as he continues to read and learn.

More to Come

I discuss the next two points (screen time and focusing), on my Mission: Allendale blog, since I've seen those issues as front and center in the community that we are living in.


Related Links:

3 comments :

  1. Of course I like this post! :)

    Mark

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I figured you would! I owe it to you. Thanks again!

      Delete
  2. Teach Your Child to Read Today!

    Reading is one of the most important skills one must master to succeed in life. It helps your child succeed in school, helps them build self-confidence, and helps to motivate your child. Being able to read will help your child learn more about the world, understand directions on signs and warnings on labels, allow them to discover reading as an entertainment, and help them gather information.

    Learning to read is very different from learning to speak, and it does not happen all at once. There is a steady progression in the development of reading ability over time. The best time for children to start learning to read is at a young age - even before they enter pre-school. Once a child is able to speak, they can begin developing basic reading skills. Very young children have a natural curiosity to learn about everything. They are naturally intrigued by the printed texts they see, and are eager to learn about the sounds made by those letters. You will likely notice that your young child likes to look at books and thoroughly enjoys being read to. They will even pretend to behave like a reader by holding books and pretend to read them.

    At what age can you start teaching a child to read? When they're babies? At 2 years old, 3, 4, or 5 years old, or wait until they're in school?

    If you delay your child's reading skill development until he or she enters school, you are putting your child at risk...

    Did you know that 67% of all Grade 4 students cannot read at a proficient level! According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, of those 67%, 33% read at just the BASIC level, and 34% CANNOT even achieve reading abilities of the lowest basic level!

    There is a super simple and extremely effective system that will even teach 2 and 3 year old children to read.

    This is a unique reading program developed by two amazing parents and reading teachers, Jim and Elena, who successfully taught their four children to read before turning 3 years old. The reading system they developed is so effective that by the time their daughter was just 4 years 2 months old, she was already reading at a grade 3 level. They have videos to prove it.

    >> Click here to watch the videos and learn more.

    Their reading system is called Children Learning Reading, and it is nothing like the infomercials you see on TV, showing babies appearing to read, but who have only learned to memorize a few word shapes. This is a program that will teach your child to effectively decode and read phonetically. It will give your child a big head start, and allow you to teach your child to read and help your child develop reading skills years ahead of similar aged children.

    This is not a quick fix solution where you put your child in front of the TV or computer for hours and hope that your child learns to "read"... somehow...

    This is a reading program that requires you, the parent, to be involved. But the results are absolutely amazing. Thousands of parents have used the Children Learning Reading program to successfully teach their children to read.

    All it takes is 10 to 15 minutes a day.

    >> Click here to get started right now. How to Teach a 2 or 3 Year Old to Read.

    ReplyDelete