Fostering a Love for Reading: an Investment in the Future (an article from the Guidance Channel Ezine)

Reading and writing skills are the essential ingredients in almost every subject taught in school. While many reading specialists and researchers may argue about the best approach to teach these basic skills, there is one thing they, and the research, agree on. If a child does not know how to read and write by the end of the third grade, that child is clearly at risk. In our desire to achieve the greatest success with the largest number of children placed in our charge, we must overcome the school-based obstacles that place children at risk. The way to ensure that no child is left behind is to ensure that reading and writing are effectively taught.

What Can Schools, Teachers, And Parents Do To Encourage Children To Develop A Love And Appreciation Of Reading And Writing?

Use children’s imagination to drive their interest in reading.

Children enjoy learning about their world. They enjoy looking at books about things of interest to them — perhaps how plants grow, how baby animals develop, or how vehicles carry people and things. Fortunately, many wonderful informational books are available today — books with spectacular photographs or illustrations and descriptions that children can understand easily.

Teach children new words and concepts.

Explain new vocabulary in the books that you read with them. Teach them and name all of the things in the classroom and in the home. In everyday conversation with children, introduce words and concepts that they may not know, for example beauty or fairness.

Encourage children write, draw, and engage in play.

After drawing, have children label the illustrations (for example: house, car, mother, father, me).

Make life experiences learning experiences.

Any time children go someplace, especially someplace new to them, they can learn something. Even if it is just a walk around the block, children can learn something new if you talk with them. Point out things they might not notice. Explain events that are taking place. Answer the questions the children have and praise them for looking and learning. Before you go to a place the children have never been, such as a zoo or a museum, discuss what they will be seeing and learning. After the trip, have the children talk and write about their experiences.

Invite visitors to your classroom.

Classroom visitors can teach your children a great deal. They can bring interesting objects or animals to talk about with the children. Visitors can talk about their jobs or their hobbies or show pictures of faraway places they have seen or tell stories about life long ago. Then have the children write them “thank you” letters. For very young children, have them dictate to you what you should write.

Read aloud to young children.

Reading aloud is important because it helps children acquire the information and skills they need to succeed in school and life, such as:

* Knowledge of printed word letters and words, and the relationship between sound and print
* The meaning of many words
* Insight into how books work and exposure to a variety of writing styles
* A greater understanding of the world in which they live
* The ability to recognize the difference between written language and everyday conversation
* The pleasure of reading

Make reading books an enjoyable experience.

Choose a comfortable place where the children can sit near you. Be enthusiastic about reading. Show children that reading is an interesting and rewarding activity. When children enjoy being read to, they will grow to love books and be eager to learn to read.

Read to children frequently.

Read to the children in your care several times a day. Establish regular times for reading during the day and find other opportunities to read:

* Start or end the day with a book.
* Read to children after a morning play period, which also helps settle them down.
* Read to them during snack time or before naptime.

Help children to learn as you read.

Offer explanations, make observations, and help the children notice new information. Explain words they may not know. Point out how the pictures in a book relate to the story. If the story takes place in a historic era or in an unfamiliar place, give children some background information so they will better understand and enjoy the story. Talk about the characters’ actions and feelings. Find ways to relate the book you are reading to what the children have been doing in the classroom.

Ask children questions as you read.

Ask questions that help children connect the story with their own lives or that help them to compare the book with other books they have read. Ask questions that help the children notice what is in the book and ask them to predict what will happen next.

Encourage children to talk about the book.

Have a conversation with the children about the book you are reading. Answer their questions. Welcome their observations and add to what they say. Continue to talk about the book after you have read it. Invite the children to comment on the story. Ask them to talk about their favorite parts and encourage them to tell the story in their own words.

Read many kinds of books.

Children need to be read different kinds of books. Storybooks can help children learn about times, cultures, and peoples other than their own; stories can help them understand how others think, act, and feel. Informational books can help children learn facts about the world around them. These books also introduce children to important concepts and vocabulary that they will need for success in school. Read books that relate to the children’s backgrounds: their experiences, cultures, languages and interests. Read books with characters and situations both similar and dissimilar to those in the children’s lives so they can learn about the world.

Choose books that help you teach.

Use alphabet books to help you teach the names of the letters and the sounds that each letter can represent and use counting books to teach children how to count and to recognize numbers. Use poetry or rhyming books to support your teaching of phonological awareness. Use big books (oversized books that your children can easily see to point out letters, words, and other features of print and to teach book handling. Choose stories that help children learn about social behavior, for example, books about friendship to help children learn to share and cooperate. Also choose stories that show children how the world around them works, for example, what is happening with the eggs that are hatching in your science area.

Reread favorite books.

Children love to hear their favorite books over and over again. Hearing books read several times helps children understand and notice new things. For example, they may figure out what an unfamiliar word means when they have heard a story several times. They may notice repeated sound patterns. If you point out some letters and words as your read the book repeatedly, children also may pick up specific words that are easily recognized and specific letter-sound relationships.

When children learn to love and appreciate reading, they will become life-long learners and will have the power to succeed in life.

Material from A Dropout Prevention Toolkit, by Franklin P. Schargel, published by Eye on Education, Inc. 2003. and from Teaching Our Youngest, by the U.S. Department of Education and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Early Childhood-Head Start Task Force, Washington, D.C., 2002.This article is reprinted with permission of the Guidance Channel Ezine. It was published in their November, 2002 Issue.