by, Julie Moore, Grammar School Academic Director
“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” -Dr. Seuss
Learning From Experiences
Experiences can have a huge impact on whether reading excites a child or not. The experiences we have during our childhood are often the ones we remember most vividly. Helping your child discover and appreciate these experiences will be an important part of his/her growth in reading. Readers tend to use the experiences they have encountered in their lives as a foundation for understanding and enjoying the ideas in the books they read.
Your child’s success in reading can be stimulated by offering a variety of experiences inside and outside of your home. Reading becomes more personal for a child when he/she can relate it to actual experiences. When children feel they are a part of the action in a story (or can relate the actions to their own personal experiences), they will most likely develop a positive attitude toward reading. Even seemingly insignificant experiences may aid in improving your child’s attitude towards reading. Try some of these ideas to help your child discover new experiences.
- Keep the book(s) your child is reading in mind when choosing an activity or place to visit. For example, visiting a farm while reading Charlotte’s Web would be a great way to make the setting come alive.
- Plan a special trip to the museum, zoo, arboretum, dairy farm, aquarium, or other place that relates to a book being read.
- Pull out old family albums or documents. Talk with your child about your family history, ancestors, where family members have lived, etc.
- Visit community buildings. A fire station, police station, and city hall offer wonderful opportunities for your child to expand his/her world of experiences.
- Plan a simple family project such as planting a small garden, building a simple bookcase, or other activity that relates to a book being read. Encourage your child to participate in the planning of the project.
- Read books to your child about the past. Discuss the similarities and differences in the way we live now.
- Try to expose your child to something new once a month. Open a lemonade stand, fly a kite, go camping, or participate in another activity that relates to a book being read.
- As you work around the house, share your job with your child. Take some time to talk about the various parts of the work you are doing (fixing a faucet, cooking a meal). If practical, have your child participate in the activity.
Ways to Encourage a Love for Reading
In order for children to enjoy reading and make it a significant part of their lives, they must be motivated to explore new books. Children who are excited to read are children who will want to read. Try some of the following ideas to help inspire your child to read:
- Create a culture of reading in your home.
- Read aloud to your child every chance you get. When children listen to adults read, it helps them develop an appreciation for written material and the thoughts and ideas that books can convey. You can open up a whole new world of adventure that cannot be found anywhere else, including television!
- Set a good example by putting aside a special time each day for all family members to read together. You may wish to use this time as silent reading time or an opportunity to read to each other. If your child has a pet or stuffed animal, let him/her read to it occasionally. This silent audience gives your child an opportunity to share the joy of reading with a non-critical audience. Older children can be encouraged to read to younger brothers and sisters.
- Place a small rug in a corner of your child’s room along with some large pillows or a bean bag. Hang some posters or pictures and make this a special reading place for your child.
- Encourage your child to look for and notice all the things which surround us daily that contain words, letters and/or numbers (i.e., signs, toothpaste tube, globes, price tags, etc. …). Your child may choose to start a list and add to it regularly. Making the connection between written words and the importance of reading may inspire your child to pick up a book of his/her own accord.
- Try one or all of the following reading activities:
- Map it Out – Purchase a map specifically for the books your child is reading. Identify the setting of the book by labeling the location with the book title; compare the locations from the different books. Older students may be able to provide historical events that took place there.
- Bookmark – Provide your child with a bookmark or allow him/her to make one. At times, reading can become more enjoyable if the child has a bookmark he/she likes.
- Puppet Show – Work with your child to create puppets for characters from the book and put on a play for other family members.
- Advertisement – Have your child create an advertisement for the book. If needed, provide examples of advertisements from magazines or newspapers. Your child may wish to “sell” the book to other family members.
- Pantomime – Provide your child with a few simple props (chair, box, pencil, etc.) and ask him/her to act out the book for family or friends. You may also wish to help your child locate clothing or objects that a character may have worn or used.
- Name Game – Write your child’s name in large letters vertically on a large piece of paper. As your child reads new books, look for characters whose names begin with the letters in your child’s name. Record the names on the paper until all the letters are completed.
Helping and encouraging your child to love reading is one of the most worthwhile investments of your time and efforts. Your child will thank you for it later!