This week, February 8 – 12, 2016, schools and libraries all over the country are celebrating Love of Reading week. We are having special readers—city officials, police officers, servicemen and women, librarians, curators, parents, athletes, and other community members—come in to share their favorite books with students. For more information, check our newsletter and calendar of events.
Literacy and literacy education remain at the forefront of parent and teacher concerns. In our increasingly digital world, literacy is an indispensable commodity. Being able to read and write fluently is vital to participation and success in the current state of our world. Between text, email, and the time we all spend online, much of the information we consume is in print, so strong reading skills are a must for success today and in the future.
No matter your child’s age, whether they are just learning to read or have been reading on their own for a while, reading with them still has benefits. It gives you special one-on-one time with your child, while helping them better their reading skills. As they get older, it will give you something to talk about with them.
With older kids, rather than reading to them, change it up. Have them read to you or do a reading round robin—have them read a page, then you read a page. Or you could borrow two copies of the book and read the same book at the same time, and have your own discussion afterward.
Talk About Reading
Whether you read the book together, or you and your child have merely read the same book, talk to them about it. Encourage them to talk about what they liked about it and what they think the author did well. Perhaps inquire about ways it is similar to other books they have read recently.
Resist the urge to quiz them on the book, though. Ask them questions that inspire them to engage with the text beyond just knowing what happened in the story. Questions that go beyond plot toward issues of theme, symbolism, characterization, and voice will help your child develop critical thinking and reading comprehension skills that will help them throughout their education and beyond.
Make Reading Fun
If reading is a chore, your child won’t want to do it. One easy way to make reading fun is to introduce choice into the activity. Take them to the library and let them choose books that spark their interest. Give books as gifts and rewards, and encourage friends and family to do the same. Rather than applying your ideas of what your child should be reading, allow your child’s interests to be your guide.
You can even encourage them to try new things by creating a Genre Bingo card with them, or you could use this one. You could also try one that’s a little more open in its squares, using different square qualifiers that allow for much more diversity in the options, like this one. Reading challenges like those linked in the resources section of this article are great for making your own reading bingo cards at home.
You can also encourage your child to keep a reading journal. This can be something they do daily after reading or upon completion of a book. It can include open questions about what they read and their reaction to it. Or it can be very much a summary, like the Book Recommendation Card featured below or this page or this one. Or you can find some great free printables here and here.
Carve Out Time
This is a very simple step. If there is no time for reading, then it won’t happen. Schedule a time for your child to read daily, and to read with them. Making time for reading shows your child that you value literacy and will instill that value in them as well. Suggest your child take a book with them, that way they can read on the way to destinations and whenever there is a free moment. You can also encourage them to use e-readers—most systems, like the Amazon Kindle, allow you to set up reading access geared toward your children.
Be A Reading Model
Children mimic the actions and behaviors of their parents. If your child sees you enjoying reading and doing it often, they will be more likely to view it as a pleasurable activity. Reading with him or her and making time for reading (yours and his or hers) will also reinforce it as important.
Practice Makes Improvement
Regardless of age, the more a person reads, the better they read. Reading also helps people learn more about the world around us, especially children. And the reverse is also true—the less reading, the poorer the reader. Reading can also help a child improve their writing skills because it exposes them to the written word and can spark their imaginations.
Love of Reading week is the perfect time to celebrate literacy in your own family.
Book Club for Kids: A podcast that began on National Public Radio. The shows include discussions about a book by young readers as well as celebrity readings. It has been honored with the “Literacy in Media” award. Their site also includes book recommendations.
Goodreads’ Kids/Teens Book Club*: An online discussion group that talks about and recommends Middle Grade/Young Adult books. It is a moderated discussion board and maintained with the realization that there are younger participants there.
Virtual Book Club for Kids*: This group is designed with a focus on younger children and lays out a calendar and suggestions for ways in which families can participate. Each month a book is featured and this group of bloggers creates and shares ideas and activities related to that book. This is their 4th year.
Mostly Books Young Adult Book Club: This group is both face-to-face and online. They chose three monthly titles, one is discussed on-site at their Tucson store, and all titles are discussed in their online forums. Each month is themed—January is apocalyptic fiction, while February features historical fiction.
2016 Reading Challenge for Kids: A challenge designed by the writer of this article with the youngest readers in mind.
2016 Young Readers Challenge: This one is for intermediate readers and posted by Booka-Shelf.
2016 YA Reading Challenge: A reading challenge presented by the YA Book Madness Blog.
2016 Reading Challenge: A more general reading challenge for this year.
2016 Reading Challenge: Another option, this one from the Torrington Library, which also includes a point system to make it more of a challenge. (Note: this one is geared toward adults but could be easily adapted to kids.)
Thinking of Starting a Book Club?
PBS: An article about starting and maintaining book clubs for kids.
Parents – Reading Together: Another helpful article about setting up successful book clubs directed at engaging children.
Eduscapes’ Teacher Tap: Great resources and links to book clubs and reading groups, as well as resources on how to put together a local book club.
Spaghetti Book Club: This club is school-based and dedicated to helping kids develop and maintain a love of reading. Through participation in this group they learn critical thinking skills and share their reviews with a world-wide audience. This site houses book reviews written for kids by kids. The program itself, however, is not open to individuals but the reviews can be useful when your child is looking for books they might enjoy.
Scholastic Kids Book Clubs: This site includes weekly books and top ten lists, as well as loads of free book-related activities and printables. There is also a page featuring interviews with and information on authors and illustrators. Their book wizard is also an adorable way to find new titles that might interest your child; after ten quick questions it conjures up six age-appropriate reading selections based on the answers.
*This option is suggested with the realization that face-to-face book clubs are not as prevalent as they once were. This recommendation is made as a potential resource for parents and children to read books together and talk about them with each other and other people, thereby fostering discussion and critical thinking skills. Parents should apprise themselves as to the nature and content of the online communities their child is a part of; we cannot and do not vouch for this resource or the content therein, only note that it is an available option for those who would like such an option.