One of the first things that I tell parents, is that not all children are ready to read at the same age. Schools must keep everyone "on track" because they do not have the staffing or funding needed to help each child at their own pace. In homeschooling, we do have that luxury. We can wait and try many different approaches.
In most cases, the main problem is a lack of readiness for reading. The child may be spending all of his energy on other tasks (like building with Legos or running races), and has little energy or interest to put to use figuring out what those little squiggly lines might mean. With time, and with continued effort from the parents, most children will learn to read.
What can parents do to speed this process along? Include storytime in the schedule each day. Hearing good stories often inspires children to want to read on their own. Choose books that are well illustrated and interesting. Stories that are humorous or exciting are often good choices. Read to your children with enthusiasm and with expression.
If your child has hobbies or enjoys sports or loves animals, choose books that relate to those interests. Read some of them aloud to your child, and leave others on the table or somewhere they will be seen. Just getting children to pick up a book, and look through it, can lead to increased interest and desire.
Subscribe to magazines that are interesting and fun. "Sports Illustrated for Kids" is a wonderful magazine for any child with an interest in sports. It covers a wide range of sports, avoids sensationalism, and it includes wonderful photographs, activities and games. For animal lovers, check out "Ranger Rick," "Your Big Backyard" or "National Geographic Kids." Filled with facts, photos and activities, they will pique your child's interest in learning. "Highlights for Children" was always very popular at our house, because it included such a wide variety of activities and stories.
Try giving your child a "book allowance," money that can be used only to purchase books. There are many places that offer inexpensive books for children, such as the grocery store, library book sales, used book stores and garage sales. Ownership is very important to many youngsters. Set up a spot in your child's room for their books. If they purchased them, and they can see them on their own shelves, it often increases their desire to learn to read them.
Comic books, interesting and educational websites and computer games that require reading are, also, good options for increasing interest in reading.
One of the most important factors is to be a reader yourself, and to enforce a positive approach to reading. Most children should not have a required reading time each day. Forcing children to read for pleasure usually has the opposite of the desired effect. You might try a family reading time each day, where everyone spends time "reading." Let them choose what interests them, even if it is something that is very light. Keep the time fairly short and be sure to participate in this event yourself.
If you feel that there may be other reasons your child is not learning to read, consider having them tested to determine if there is a learning difference that might be causing the problem. Dyslexia or ADHD or other differences in learning are all challenges that require specialized approaches. Determining if your child needs a specialized approach is important. There are many resources to assist you and your child. Some are listed at the end of this article.
Learning to read is a very important skill, and one that should be encouraged. Celebrate your children's improvements (even small ones) and let them know that you are proud of their efforts. Include time at the dinner table to discuss interesting, exciting or humorous things you've read. Include enrichment activities to bring stories "to life," such as meeting a favorite author, visiting a location mentioned in a book, making a recipe or trying a craft that was described in a favorite story.
Let me know about your family's book activities. I would love to be able to share some "real life" reading adventures with the readers of this newsletter.
25 fun ways to encourage reading
The 100 best children's books (according to this website)
A great source for wonderful reading material
Reading and Dyslexia - methods and resources
Parents resource guide for learning disabilities
"The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go." - Dr. Seuss, "I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!"
"Never judge a book by its movie." - J. W. Eagan
"I would be most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves." ~Anna Quindlen, "Enough Bookshelves," New York Times, 7 August 1991
"Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read." ~Groucho Marx
"I find television to be very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go in the other room and read a book." - Groucho Marx