For some children, reading comes easily, for others it is difficult, and then there are still others who fall somewhere in between. No matter how a child’s natural gift carries them through the process of learning to read, inspiring the love of reading is a task in and of itself. Once sparked, the love of being carried away by words, thrilling stories, and just the feel of a book has the power to entice a reluctant beginning reader to merely open the cover and enter.
At the end of this post is a FREE printable worksheet and answer key from Education.com. Kids will love digging up the names of dinosaurs hidden in this word search. Word searches are a great tool for reinforcing spelling, vocabulary and word recognition. Discover even more language arts resources at Education.com.
From Non-Reader to Speed-Reader
Sandra was not reading when she went to school. These days that statement doesn’t seem odd, kids go to school as early as three, but Sandra started at the first grade level. You see, I had homeschooled her for pre-k and kindergarten, but neither curriculum used a reading program. She was also a reluctant reader. She knew (and still knows) who she is and what she wants unquestioningly – and she did not want to read.
During the time I was homeschooling, I read many, many blogs and much material about the process of learning to read. So much of what I read stated that many children don’t naturally seem to “get” reading fluently until they are age seven. As such, I was not at all worried while I was homeschooling that she was not reading. As my intention and hope had been to continue to homeschooling, I had faith that it would come. However, my separation and divorce forced me to return to work full-time, forcing me to enroll her in public school. By the end of first grade, however, Sandra left school at a mid-2nd grade reading level. By the end of 2nd grade, she was a late-3rd grade level. She spent all of last summer (that before 3rd grade), reading a Magic Tree House book a day. She just turned 9, and her favorite books are those by Raina Telgemeier, which are recommended for ages 11-14.
So, how did I inspire my non-reading 6-year-old to become the 3rd grade class reading whiz? Well, it’s quite simple: I had already instilled a love of reading and books in her, the issue was just to get her to jump from having someone read them to her to reading them herself.
Reading and Writing Readiness
These days, children can’t just learn to read, nope, now they need to get ready to learn to read. Really, ‘reading readiness’ is just a fancy term for doing activities with children that support this love of reading before they would naturally be understanding the written word by looking at it. Examples of these activities involve identifying letters in the everyday environment, playing verbal word games, demonstrating to kids the power of the written word, and reading and looking at books together.
The biggest and most important way for parents and caregivers to support the development of reading in young children is merely to have books available. How can a child learn to read if they are not looking at words? One meme that I liked that was floating around social media said something along these lines:
If you read one book to your child every day, after five years, he will have been exposed to 1,826 books.
Say that they are simple books with only 50 words. After five years, that is 91,300 words that child has seen in print. If the books are a bit longer, say 1000 words – which is pretty standard – that makes 1,826,000 words that child has seen and heard read to them! So reading to our children sends a powerful message. But even without reading those 1,826 books, having some within easy reach lets a child flip through them, look at the pictures, examine the letters on the page, and decide how they feel about books on their own. As they get older and learn to read independently, many will come back to whatever books are lying around the house and rifle through them, rediscovering the comforting stories of old friends.
Reading readiness activities can also involve word plays. Sandra spent hours and hours just rhyming words. If I lent her half an ear, she went to it all by herself. Rene didn’t do quite as much, but then, I was at work full-time and missing 40 hours of his week, so perhaps he did and I just wasn’t witness to it. Some kids also develop favorite letters, usually those contained within their names, and gather much excitement spotting those letters around town, on cereal boxes, and in books read together.
Demonstrate the Power of the Written Word
There is power in being able to read. In the United States, illiteracy rates are low, however I have lived and worked with populations that have high rates of literacy, both in the US and abroad. Not being able to understand what you are signing for when you have to sign your name is dangerous indeed.
I have little fear of my children exiting high school illiterate though, and beyond the convenience of being able to read patient bills of rights and legal documents, etc, literacy has other types of power. Being able to read allows us to be knowledgeable – and knowledge has power. Knowledge allows us to form our opinions and ideas. We can learn how to do something that we did not previously know and even the most famous, talented, creative, cutting-edge movers and shakers of our world have gathered knowledge from other people and then crafted it to make it their own. In this era, original ideas are put forth with the written word, no matter what it is.
Demonstrating the power of the written word does not have to be sitting down and reading a biography to a child. My favorite way of demonstrating this power is just to go to the internet to look up the answer to a question that we have. That is power in reading! Immediate action lets my child see that there are things I don’t know – but I can find out with the right tools. If I could not read, I would not be able to know the answer to the burning questions of why there is an eagle on the fire hall or whether spotted salamanders live in our region. Actually, both kids have gotten into the habit of doing this bit of research on their own lately. Rene discovered Google Assistant and poses verbal questions but then needs a translator for the text. Sandra however, will open the internet and type her question out. Today’s burning question was needing to know if black pearls exist, and then what happens if you cut a pearl in half.
These burning questions lead us to answers from lands afar. Thus written word connects us to people and places far away. Finding out how we are alike and different makes us feel connected, give our lives meaning, and helps us see things from other viewpoints. It adds dimension to our lives.
Explore Various Topics and Forms of Delivery for the Written Word
Our collection of print books includes topics on the kids’ regular favorites of trucks and animals, but I have also made it a point to include other topics as well. With the intent of inspiring a love of learning and making sure they are well rounded, I have books about space, famous people, history, super heroes, classics, as well as best-selling fiction. I also make sure to have a variety of delivery method, which includes poetry, picture books, encyclopedias, magazines and chapter books. I opt to not use digital books because the kids have to put up the devices when screen-time has ended, but that is another option as well. Our school district sends home invitations to join the Epic! Digital Library, which gives access to titles in digital copy for a fee. My daughter says, “It is amazing!” Many libraries also offer free access to digital copies of books just with the use of your card.
Another thing I am also sure to keep around the house are books that are kid appropriate but not necessarily geared towards children. These books include field guides (which I would be lost without), photo books, and coffee table books of artwork or natural history. As well, I have a collection of cook books that Sandra likes to peruse when she feels like making something in the kitchen. Local weekly newspapers are also a good idea as they feature stories about newsworthy people and events in the area, often including stories about positive events. People the kids know are sometimes featured in a weekly periodical – or they themselves might be!
Reading Infused into Daily Life
In my humble opinion, having the written word be infused into our daily life has been one of the biggest supporters of instilling a love of reading in my children. Rene might still be learning to read independently, but there is no doubt that he loves to read. Reading stories aloud together is our nightly routine (and justifies the incredible amount of books I have amassed in my living room, at least in my mind) and he still asks to have stories read aloud to him. Sandra goes between reading independently and listening to me read, depending on the night. Listening to stories read aloud helps develop comprehension skill and aids in vocabulary even in children who are skilled at independent reading.
Reading aloud together every night has also given my children the joy of reading for pleasure. I have always avoided ever associating reading with a negative consequence. Actually, in doing so, I made bedtime routine a pleasure for myself because my kids happily came along to bed because they couldn’t wait for story time. Reading together before bed has also strengthened our bond as a family and sometimes opens the door for important conversations.
Apart from a nightly routine that includes reading aloud, I have heard of other families reading together over breakfast, or listening to audio books in the car during a commute. Reading books together of favorite movies is another option. We are currently reading the Chronicles of Narnia and have borrowed some of the movies from my sister. Sandra is opting to wait until we have finished each book before we watch the movie – what a great exercise in self-discipline!
Besides just having books around the house and actually reading, there are many other ways to support the love of reading in youngsters. Demonstrating how letters, words and reading are part of real life and can be fun is very important to do with new readers and can get them excited about reading. Some ways to do this are looking at words in the environment. The first word Sandra ever read was probably STOP and she was very excited about that. Using a road sign to help a child learn their home address gives them a sense of place and ties in social studies as well. Recently, we went to Florida and played the licence plate game, of course. We have a board game of the 50 United States, so they were very excited and adept at picking out new plates. Though Rene couldn’t read the names, he was able to use the images on the plates as clues that each plate was different. As a beginning reader, he was also able to identify letters that led him to guess names of states, as well as sound some of the names out.
Around the house, we have a family post that we can leave notes to each other in. I am also quick to hang up any art word or cards the kids gave me. Rene lovingly scratched me a note the other day on his new birthday paper asking, “Mome, do you luv the wrld?” (Mommy, do you love the world?” Don’t you love that?! I immediately hung it up in my bedroom because it is such a lovely question. There are so many other ways to include words and reading in life every day: cooking together as Sandra and I did tonight, board games, messages with chalk, foam letters for the tub. Really, you can turn practically any game into a time to support reading, even playing with sand and bubbles by forming letters with the sand or gesturing with the arms to form the letters. Running, dancing, jump rope, even riding bikes can have fun games attached to them to support letters. Just remember to let kids have time to play freely as well, you might be surprised at how they pull reading right into their own play on their own.
FREE Printable from Education.com!!!
Instilling the love of reading is as easy as just having books hanging around. While this seems like it must be a huge investment, it doesn’t have to be expensive, so many of our books have come as gifts, from yard sales, and cheap off Amazon. Our town also has the Little Red Bookshelves in a few business locations and we sometimes borrow off those, often replacing with other titles that are duplicates or I don’t want for some reason. However, instilling the love of reading sets a child up for life and gives them a reason to never be bored again, supports creativity, and helps them learn about the world. Data suggests that reading also instills good ethical and moral characteristics in children (and adults) as they are able to try different feelings on without actually being in those real life, negative/challenging (and perhaps dangerous) situations. And who doesn’t want a little more sympathy in our world?!
In an effort to support the love of reading, Education.com has partnered with A Place for Little Sprouts to Grow to offer a free printable worksheet for my readers. I used to LOVE doing workbooks when I was a kid, it definitely supported my love of reading!
Kids will love digging up the names of dinosaurs hidden in this word search. Word searches are a great tool for reinforcing spelling, vocabulary and word recognition. Discover even more language arts resources at Education.com.
Share your thoughts: What are some other ideas you use to support the the love of reading in your child?