Sunday, September 30, 2012

Raising Bookworms

A young girl is curled up in an old, over-stuffed armchair, totally absorbed in the pages of a book. A television sits nearby, silent and black with jealousy. In a corner, a computer gathers dust in concert with an abandoned gaming system. No one would guess that this girl lost in the world of Regency England crafted by literary great, Jane Austen, couldn't read at all until fifth grade and fights against the headaches and blurred vision brought on by severe dyslexia. No one would believe that this beautiful twelve year old preteen who has devoured Little Women, Jane Eyre, and is nearly finished with the entire Anne of Green Gables series was still unable to recognize all the letters of the alphabet in the third grade.
So, with all the barriers to reading this young girl faced and all the preconceived notions of the demise of the book and the rise of the electronic age, why does this child choose a book, an ink and paper relic to some, over the hypnotic allure of technology?
Children who love to read...READ! It's just a simple fact of human nature that we are more inclined to do the things that interest and excite us rather than the things we are forced or obligated to do. So how do we engage our children's hearts in the wonder of reading instead of just training their minds in its mechanics?
Think of learning to ride a bicycle.
Your dad props you up on a shiny red bicycle, gives you a few pointers and an encouraging smile, then runs alongside you with his hand securely on the back of the bike seat, steadying and supporting you as you fly down the sidewalk with the wind in your hair and a thrilled and slightly terrified grin on your face.
Your dad sits you down with a diagram of a bicycle and drills you on its parts, making you list them over and over and recite them back to him in alphabetical order.
Which teaching style would result in a bicycle rider rather than just a memorization of bicycle parts? Which scenario would encourage a love of bicycle riding?
When it comes to reading, do you want your children to become readers or just learn how to read? Do you want them to love to read or just know how? If a love of reading is your goal for your children, here are some ideas to get you started:
  1. Let them see you reading! Children learn more by watching what we do than by listening to what we say. Seeing your books laying around the house, trying to get your attention while you're absorbed in an intense scene, giggling when you 'sneak' away to the bathroom with a favorite tome, all of these things will have a huge impact on their perception of reading as a desirable activity.

  2. Read to them from infancy on, and let them in on it! Don't make reading a one-sided exercise with you doing all the talking. Make reading interactive by letting your little one turn pages (yes, even if they want to go backwards!) and point at the pictures and talk about the binding and maybe even chew on the book a bit (bookworms actually do eat books, after all!)

  3. Play, play, play! Seriously, stop being so serious! Children learn best through play, so grab some sidewalk chalk and head outside to the best classroom ever invented. Make up your own games or check out Pinterest and just have a blast! If your children associate learning to read with mommy playing abc hopscotch with them or daddy hiding abc eggs in the bushes, you've turned what could be a battle into a playground!

  4. Surround them with books of every kind! Fill your home with paperback thrillers and dime-store novels and comic books (yes, comic books!) and nonfiction books on horses and whales and art and music. Creating an atmosphere ripe with knowledge and adventure at your children's fingertips will go a long way towards making reading an active part of their lives.

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