Sometimes children are reluctant to make reading a part of their daily routine, whether it’s because of their frustration with learning new words or the fact that they’re far more tempted by cartoons on TV or games on an electronic device. As a parent, it can be easy to get frustrated, too, but it’s important to remember that how we talk about reading with our children is a key part of cultivating a positive attitude toward reading.There’s no doubt that children are little language sponges—let a stray expletive fly after banging your toe on the coffee table and they’ll be cursing for a week. Creating a dialogue about reading is the same thing: keep it exciting, encouraging, and fun.
Here are four of our favorite techniques:
Reading may be a necessity, but that doesn’t mean it has to be a chore. The language we use around story time can affect the way children approach books. Save the absolutes for things like “We have to wash hands” or “We must pick up our toys”—the not-so-fun stuff. Reading should be offered like other activities that inspire enthusiastic responses; “I’d LOVE to read a bedtime story with you” sounds infinitely more enjoyable than “We have to read now.” After they pick up on the positive language, reading time will skyrocket to the top of their to-do list, right alongside playing, going to the park, and going on a treasure hunt. Bonus: here’s how to create the perfect reading nook.
It’s late and bedtime is being dragged out by some creative, if non-sequitur, storytelling. It’s certainly tempting to ask for a rapt and quiet audience so you can get through the book (and back to that pile of laundry) more quickly. But engagement—reading along or making up stories to go with the pictures—should be encouraged. If time is of the essence, let your little one flip the pages to get to that happily-ever-after a little sooner.
Learning to read is a lifelong necessity and skill, something that will evolve with brain development and emotional growth. Using words like best, top, and smartest puts a competitive bent on reading, which can lead to frustration and feelings of inadequacy. Being the top reader in class is certainly an accomplishment, but the emphasis should be on what children are learning, not how much faster they can finish a book than their classmates. Treating reading like a race implies that, sooner or later, there is a finish line.
Struggling through a book with a new reader can be a test of patience, particularly if the child is exhausted or distracted. No matter the stumbles and mispronunciations, try to stay engaged, even when correcting simple words for the umpteenth time. Never tack on exasperated phrases like “that’s wrong” or “you’re not doing it right.” Broad criticism can make a child feel powerless. Instead, let them know you are proud of their progress. Talk enthusiastically about what they have recently learned and what they will learn next.
Once you’ve set up an exciting environment in which to read with your child, it’s time to pick the perfect book. Here are our recommendations for read-aloud books for kids of differing ages to help get you started and improve your reluctant reader’s attitude toward reading!
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