I always hear about people having children that don’t like to read and am always confused by this. I’ve always liked to read myself, and as a child went through multiple books a week during my summer vacations, and my child loves to read as well. Nobody shoved books into my hands and said, “READ!” and other than gently handing off books I want my child to read for educational purposes, I don’t do that to him either. In fact, one of his favorite things to do is to read! I say, “Go find something to do, and probably 85% of the time he’s reading!” This started when he was young. We’d get books from the library, and read them during the day and before bed.
Reading is all the same – right? WRONG!
You can read it to them. Say the words on the page. Go through the motions of turning the pages. Finish and feel you’ve put in your time. Or you can EXPERIENCE it with them.
Here are several things I used to make my little learner a little reader as well.
1) Voices – In the movie, Mrs. Doubtfire, a young Natty says to her father as he’s moving out, “…She doesn’t do the voices…” in reference to her grandmother reading her Stuart Little.
YES, kids like the voices. It sounds more real to them if Character A and Character B sound different. If it’s serious or semi-serious then make the voices normal, but character appropriate. If it’s a silly book, give the characters silly voices. If a character is young, make them sound young, and if they’re old, make them sound old. It makes the stories so much more interesting to have the characters seem real by giving them each a unique voice.
*Note, for some books you may want to read them to yourself ahead of time, especially if there are a lot of characters, to get just the right voice for your characters. Some switch so often and/or quickly that it’s sometimes easy to get confused and give Mr. Brown’s voice to Mrs. Brown, or give little Timmy his sister Sally’s voice instead.
2) Sound Effects – Yep, those horns, bangs, stomps, and whatever else is thrown into a story are worthy of emphasis and their own unique sound. Make them LOUD, make them soft, make them loooooooooooooooong, make them short, but adding the sound effects adds to the story.
3) Make It Happen – Does it happen in the book? Maybe it can happen while you’re reading too! Sitting on a bed that you can give a little movement too while reading can be beneficial. If the earth is shaking or something is bouncing then your child can experience that add that to your reading. Grab the book and hold on! Shake and rattle the bed, bounce up and down along with the book. Now your child is part of the story!
4) Read it Fast! – This is a particularly effective technique with Dr. Seuss books. You’ll probably read these books several times over the course of your child’s love for picture books. If you don’t own them then you’ll see them being in their pile of books to be checked out of the library many, many times. Green Eggs and Ham? AGAIN? That’s right! You know the book? Your child knows the book? Spare yourself while making it silly for your child. That 200th reading of that book can be painless and silly if you’re reading it as fast as you possibly can (being careful of not tearing the pages as you go, that is.) “Couldyouwouldyouwithamouse?Couldyouwouldyouinahouse?Wouldyoueatthem….” The words are written to just slide off your tongue and once Junior can read it’s a sly trick in getting him to practice his reading by seeing how fast he can go through these non-sensical stories.
5) Taking Turns – Once your child can start to read – even the small words – it’s time to take turns when reading and let them have a chance. Even if they can only read one word, when you see that word in a book, let them be the ones to read it! As words increase, let them read the few they know. And once they can read a whole bunch of words, it’s time for you to start letting them read one side of pages (the right side for example) while you read the other.
6) It’s Their Turn – Once their reading skills have increased quite a bit it’s time to let them show you what they know! Many will be eager to do so, and others might not, but whichever it is encourage it. Oh, and have them read to you the way you read to them. “Don’t you have any voices?” and “What about sound effects?” Of course, your little reader may easily be willing to accommodate this and automatically choose to do this with your pushing and prodding over the matter, because that’s how they’re used to having it done!
7) Making Materials Available – Your child can’t read if the items aren’t there. Once your child is reading by him or herself make sure they have plenty of reading materials available in different locations that peak their interest. Picture books, chapter books, fiction, non-fiction, magazine, even Sunday comics and graphic novels and comic books give them a chance to practice their reading skills. I get numerous books at the library, inexpensive books at used bookstores, use good deals from Scholastic or Amazon, or just pick up a magazine here or there and make them accessible to my child in various places: Upstairs in his room, downstairs in a bin next to a chair he likes to sit in, in a bin in the car, wherever they’re going to be. Do we have a long line to wait in somewhere? I have a book handy in my bag. Time spent waiting in a doctor’s or dentist’s office? Out comes a fun magazine.
8 ) Appealing to Your Child’s Interests – Maybe your child is into aliens from another planet, or disgusting spiders, or something equally unappealing to you. You may want them to read the newest Newberry award winners but they may want to read something totally different. Aside from restricting books because of content you disapprove of, don’t limit a subject just because you don’t like it, or expect them to read and like something just because you like or liked it. Your child will be more likely to read something that they want to read about or read to learn something that peaks their interest than read something just because it’s on a list of books that their age level should read.
** Make it fun. Make it interesting. Make it come alive. Reading will become a habit and a desired hobby, rather than just a chore. **