A Teacher Reveals 7 Secrets
that Get Your Kids Reading
by Sophia Cook
The single most important determinant of school success is reading ability. Students who read at or above their grade level understand the lessons, write well, and score better on math tests.
One student in my 5th grade classroom, Pedro, never did his homework. He goofed off in class all day long, and he rarely seemed engaged with classroom lessons. When it came to standardized tests, however, Pedro excelled. Why? Because he could read at a 9th grade level although he was only in the 5th grade.
Certainly every child needs to learn the discipline necessary to complete tasks that he or she may not be interested in. But I knew beyond a doubt that Pedro would be a success in school as soon as he decided to be. His reading ability meant he could excel.
Success in all coursework requires an ability to read at grade level. The instant your child reads below grade level, they are working harder than everyone else in the class, have less confidence, and miss important word clues that prevent them from easily learning the lesson of the day. Learning in social studies, science, math relies on an ability to understand grade-level vocabulary.
The single best way to become a better reader is to simply practice reading. As long as you have no undiagnosed learning disabilities, reading more at your current reading level will increase vocabulary, comprehension, and fluency.
Sadly, children who are struggling in reading, avoid it assiduously. They hate to do those things at which they consistently struggle. No one wants to feel bad constantly.
How do we break the cycle of low interest that leads to low ability? Here are seven ways to help your child love reading.
#1. Establish a family reading time and place. The best way to kindle an interest in reading is to make reading a pleasant and fun time. The most reluctant of readers will come into a room where their parents and siblings are enjoying some quiet time together, perhaps eating a healthy snack, while giggling over the pages of a funny book. Do not insist, yell, or bribe. The positive feelings you generate during this time are irresistible to children.
#2. Ask your child to read to a younger sibling. Allow your older child to feel smart and important by enlisting his help in reading to a younger child. Explain to him that being read to a young age helps brain growth.
#3. Read to your child. If your child truly despises reading, then your only recourse may be to read to her. Pick a book that is slightly above her reading level (ask her teacher for help with this) and that you both will enjoy. Establish a convenient time and read! Even a half hour a day will be helpful. Your child will love your undivided attention and your reading aloud will teach fluency and vocabulary.
#4. Read to your spouse (or to yourself). When I was young, I loved hearing my Dad read to my mom at night. To help your child see that reading is important, show him that reading is something adults do. If you never read, your child won’t either.
#5. Purchase a variety of books and magazines for the house. Research in 42 different countries shows that, regardless of economics, one of the major predictors of school success for children is the number of books in the home.
#6. Make a weekly trip to the library. If you can’t afford books you can still provide access to reading material. The library has a variety of options to please any child’s interests, as well as programs in which your child can participate.
#7. Relax. If you are anxious about your child’s reading level, then your child will be anxious, too. Anxiety is known to prevent learning, so relax and let your child grow into a love of reading gradually.
Sophia Cook is a former elementary school teacher turned digital nomad. From places near and far, she writes about health, children, travel, and literacy.