A young girl is curled up in an old, over-stuffed armchair, totally absorbed in the pages of a book. A television sits nearby, silent and black with jealousy. In a corner, a computer gathers dust in concert with an abandoned gaming system. No one would guess that this girl lost in the world of Regency England crafted by literary great, Jane Austen, couldn’t read at all until fifth grade and fights against the headaches and blurred vision brought on by severe dyslexia. No one would believe that this beautiful twelve year old preteen who has devoured Little Women, Jane Eyre, and is nearly finished with the entire Anne of Green Gables series was still unable to recognize all the letters of the alphabet in the third grade.
So, with all the barriers to reading this young girl faced and all the preconceived notions of the demise of the book and the rise of the electronic age, why does this child choose a book, an ink and paper relic to some, over the hypnotic allure of technology?
Children who love to read…READ! It’s just a simple fact of human nature that we are more inclined to do the things that interest and excite us rather than the things we are forced or obligated to do. So how do we engage our children’s hearts in the wonder of reading instead of just training their minds in its mechanics?
Think of learning to ride a bicycle.
Your dad props you up on a shiny red bicycle, gives you a few pointers and an encouraging smile, then runs alongside you with his hand securely on the back of the bike seat, steadying and supporting you as you fly down the sidewalk with the wind in your hair and a thrilled and slightly terrified grin on your face.
Your dad sits you down with a diagram of a bicycle and drills you on its parts, making you list them over and over and recite them back to him in alphabetical order.
Which teaching style would result in a bicycle rider rather than just a memorization of bicycle parts? Which scenario would encourage a love of bicycle riding?
When it comes to reading, do you want your children to become readers or just learn the mechanics of reading? Do you want them to love to read or just know how? If a love of reading is your goal for your children, here are some ideas to get you started:
1.) Let them see you reading! Children learn more by watching what we do than by listening to what we say. Seeing your books laying around the house, trying to get your attention while you’re absorbed in an intense scene, giggling when you ‘sneak’ away to the bathroom with a favorite tome, all of these things will have a huge impact on their perception of reading as a desirable activity.
2.) Read to them from infancy on, and let them in on it! Don’t make reading a one-sided exercise with you doing all the talking. Make reading interactive by letting your little one turn pages (yes, even if they want to go backwards!) and point at the pictures and talk about the binding and maybe even chew on the book a bit (bookworms actually do eat books, after all!)
3.) Play, play, play! Seriously, stop being so serious! Children learn best through play, so grab some sidewalk chalk and head outside to the best classroom ever invented. Make up your own games or check out Pinterest and just have a blast! If your children associate learning to read with mommy playing abc hopscotch with them or daddy hiding abc eggs in the bushes, you’ve turned what could be a battle into a playground!
4.) If a child doesn’t love to read, they’re reading the wrong books! Surround them with books of every kind. Fill your home with paperback thrillers and dime-store novels and comic books (yes, comic books!) and nonfiction books on horses and whales and art and music. Creating an atmosphere ripe with knowledge and adventure at your children’s fingertips will go a long way towards making reading an active part of their lives. (And don’t forget the power of the fort! Creating a cozy nook that invites settling in for a reading adventure is really…well, inviting!)
5.) Oh, the places you’ll go! (A la Dr. Seuss!) Make monthly library ‘dates’ to return books and explore new and exciting genres at no cost to you. While you’re there, check out the library’s calendar of events for author visits and book readings and craft activities and mom’s groups. You’ll be amazed at how much the too often forgotten library system has to offer in most areas!
6.) Indie bookstores are the bomb-diggity, no joke! Most cities have one or more independent bookstores struggling to make it through the downturned economy and the advance of the electronic age. These small stores are little niches of wonder just waiting to be discovered, and by supporting them you will not only help keep a local business afloat, but you will also introduce your children to the warmth and beauty of walls lined with books, shopkeepers who can converse about every title like an old friend, and possibly even some local authors that you never even knew existed!
7.) A lifestyle of reading puts the vast knowledge of the ages into the hands of our children. Exchanging the life-long riches of a love of reading for the temporary value of facts gleaned from required reading lists is a paltry deal, indeed. Encourage reading, yes, but let their hearts, their interests, their imaginations choose their reading material. Whatever momentary facts they need for the next test or quiz can be found just as easily on Google. A passion for reading can only be found in the heart of the child.
8.) Parenting matters! Parenting choices strongly impact a child’s level of trust and security. A love of learning grows when it isn’t stifled by fear or stress. Parents fostering a healthy attachment are also fostering a love of learning in their children which translates directly into a love of reading!
I love that my older children have already met and fallen in love with my old friends such as Sense & Sensibility, The Great Gatsby, Moby Dick, Of Mice and Men, The Red Badge of Courage, War and Peace, The Hound of the Baskervilles, and so many, many more. And I love that my younger children still have new friends waiting to be discovered between the covers of wonderful, beautiful, ageless books. Happy reading!
There is such a rush these days to get children sleeping through the night, weaned off the breast, eating solid foods, potty trained, reading independently, and on and on, that we seem to have lost the ability to simply enjoy life as it happens and let our children do the same. A Return to Childhood
Successful reading means far more than possessing the ability to read. Engaging the hearts of students moves reading success beyond a life skill and turns it into a life style. And graphic novels are too powerful of a tool in our arsenal to be disregarded because of pride or prejudice. Raising Super Readers~The MARVELous Power of Comic Books!
In the world of a child wonders are as simple as sticks and sheets, leaves and books, boxes and giggles, and the promise in a rainy day. The Seven Wonders of the World of Childhood
Think homeschooled children are unsocialized, over-controlled, locked-away-from-the-world misfits? Think again! My Renaissance Girl
Parenting choices strongly impact the level and type of attachment a child develops and, by extension, the development of a love of learning. A love of learning grows when it isn’t stifled by fear or stress or regimented by over-structuring or a focus on achievement or competition. Parents fostering a healthy attachment are thus also fostering a life-long love of learning in their children. Love, Play, Learn!
On a Winnie the Pooh style ‘long explore’ my little Pooh Bear discovered the world in The Many Adventures of My Little Pooh Bear
If you give a toddler a book
He’ll climb into your lap
While he’s in your lap
He might lay his head on your chest
When he lays his head on your chest
He’ll hear your heartbeat
When he hears your heartbeat
He’ll probably ask if you can hear… If You Give A Toddler A Book…
My SPD/SLD/ADD (Sensory Processing Disorder, Specific Learning Disability-Dyslexia, Visual and Auditory Processing Disorders, Attention Deficit Disorder, etc) sweetie, aka Renaissance Girl, has raised the bar on my homeschooling skills more times than I can count. Her beautiful mind sees the world through a unique lens similar to those of historical icons such as Thomas Edison, Leonardo Da Vinci, Benjamin Franklin, and Albert Einstein…Beautiful Minds
L.R.Knost is a best-selling parenting and children’s book author and founder and director of Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources, an online resource for gentle parenting education, articles, and research. Books by L.R.Knost include Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood ; Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages ; The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline ; and Jesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting (Release date: May 2014) the first four books in the Little Hearts Handbook gentle parenting series, as well as her children’s picture books Petey’s Listening Ears and the soon-to-be-released Grumpykins series available from Amazon and other major retailers.