It's been a tough year. More than ever there's been a good excuse to allow extra screen time - whether it's computer games or children's films. It's been hard to find a way to keep your child happy and occupied when their options for doing things outside the home or playing with friends are so limited.
In addition, we may be worried about the interruption of learning that is taking place during this crisis. Reading books can be one of the best ways to support our children right now. Not only can reading ensure that children continue to learn and preserve skills, but it can also be a great source of entertainment for the family.
So, if you are ready to encourage more reading at home this year, here are some ways to get started.
- Scout for things your child may like to read. Use their interests and hobbies as starting points.
- Leave all sorts of reading materials including books, magazines, and colorful catalogs in conspicuous places around your home.
- Notice what attracts your child’s attention, even if they only look at the pictures. Then build on that interest; read a short selection aloud, or simply bring home more information on that same subject.
- Let your child see you reading for pleasure in your spare time.
- Make sure your child has access to all kinds of books. Visit the library, create a library at home, subscribe to an audiobook service, swap books with cousins or neighbors.
- Present reading as an activity with a purpose; a way to gather useful information for, say, making paper airplanes, experimenting with science, or planning a family trip.
- Encourage older children to read to their younger brothers and sisters. Older children enjoy showing off their skills to an admiring audience.
- Play games that are reading-related. Check your closet for spelling games played with letter tiles or dice, or board games that require players to read spaces, cards, and directions.
- Perhaps over dinner, while you’re running errands, or in another informal setting, share your reactions to things you read, and encourage your children to do likewise.
- Set aside a regular time for reading in your family, independent of schoolwork, the 20 minutes before lights out, just after dinner, or whatever fits into your household schedule. As little as 10 minutes of free reading a day can help improve your child’s skills and habits.
- Read aloud to your child, especially a child who is discouraged by his or her own poor reading skills. The pleasure of listening to you read, rather than struggling alone, may restore your child’s initial enthusiasm for books and reading.
- On gift-giving occasions, give books and magazines based on your child’s current interests. National Geographic, Sports Illustrated, and Time have kids' magazines as well as LEGO. Here is a list of some popular subscription magazines for kids.
- Encourage your child to read aloud to you an exciting passage in a book, an interesting tidbit in the newspaper, or a joke in a joke book. When they read and mispronounce words now and then aloud, don’t feel that they have to get every word right. Even good readers mispronounce words now and then.
- Set aside a special place for children to keep their own books.
- Introduce the bookmark. Remind your youngster that you don’t have to finish a book in one sitting; you can stop after a few pages, or a chapter, and pick up where you left off at another time. Don’t try to persuade your child to finish a book she doesn’t like. Recommend putting the book aside and trying another.
- Treat your child to an evening of laughter and entertainment featuring books! Many children (parents, too) regard reading as a serious activity. A joke book, a story told in riddles, or a funny passage read aloud can reveal another side of reading.
- Extend your child’s positive reading experiences. For example, if your youngster enjoyed a book about dinosaurs follow up with a visit to a natural history museum.
- Offer other special incentives to encourage your child’s reading. Allow your youngster to stay up an extra 15 minutes to finish a chapter book; promise to take your child to see a movie after he or she has finished the book on which it was based; relieve your child of a regular chore to free up time for reading.
- Limit your children’s TV viewing in an effort to make time for other activities, such as reading. But never use TV as a reward for reading, or a punishment for not reading.
- Not all reading takes place between the covers of a book. What about road signs, food labels, and sheet music? Take advantage of countless spur-of-the-moment opportunities for reading during the course of your family’s busy day.
Here's to a new year full of reading!