Continuing What You Have Started — And Reaping Lifelong Rewards

As our children get older and become more independent, they often grow out of enjoying things you shared with them when they were younger.

But there is one activity that should always be a part of childhood and can be incorporated into each day for the enjoyment of the entire family.

Although your child is becoming more self-sufficient and wants to explore doing more on their own, it does not mean the family fun has to end.

Now that your child has developed a love of reading, it is time to keep up the momentum. When they were small, you interacted with them during reading time, and it was likely a special moment of bonding and quality time they treasured.

While parents may think it is easier to come up with simple ideas for younger kids to foster the love of reading, there are still plenty of great activities the whole family can do together to make every book a great adventure.

Mommy Underground previously reported on ways to engage the youngest of children — including infants and toddlers — in learning to love reading.And you can continue to foster their excitement for reading as they move into more complex books.

Reading on their own?  Continue to encourage a love of books as they get older with these fun activities.

Set aside some family reading time each day.  Designate 15 minutes before bedtime to read a chapter of a book they are interested in or read it to them. Parents can look for a great work of classical literature or a popular modern series and alternate reading between the parents and kids. Even older children like to be read to.

This is also a great way to limit television and technology. Encourage the entire family to participate, and make it special by serving popcorn and hot chocolate in front of the fire in cooler months, or on a picnic blanket in the backyard in the summertime.

There are many series of books tailored toward kids in the later elementary years.  Mark on the calendar when the next book in their favorite series comes out and plan a special trip to the library or bookstore to pick it up.

If your child is excited by a new book they are reading, let them create a scavenger hunt of items found in the book or used by the characters.  Parents and younger siblings can look through the house or yard to find clues and complete the hunt.  This is a fun way to interact with your child while they use their creativity to explain what they are reading.

Make memories and build traditions that your children will carry with them.  Read classic novels that evoke particular feelings or themes for the season — The SecretGarden in the spring, or A Christmas Carol over the holidays —  and you will find your children asking to reread it every year.

There are many resources online for parents to find projects pertaining to books your kids are interested in.  They can make a poster with their own illustrations, help cook a recipe the characters in their book may have eaten, or they can even write their own sequel.  The possibilities are as endless as your child’s imagination — and that journey through the imagination is what will hook your kids on a lifelong love of reading!

Do you have a discouraged reader?  Don’t force it — continue to make it an enjoyable experience — you can still read to them!

Is your child becoming discouraged because they don’t feel like they are catching on reading by themselves?  Parents can help by reading to their older child or having them read aloud to you while you continue to help with difficult words.

In the upper elementary years, children may become bored with reading that is assigned in school.  After all, when children are told they have to do something, it often loses its appeal.

 Parents Magazine stated:

“We want to get kids reading, but they are under increasing pressure to do so, and it can overshadow the joy of this wonderful shared activity,” says Nancy Carlsson-Paige, Ed.D.

 Of course, part of what makes reading enjoyable is being able to do it confidently. However, “parents shouldn’t be the ones reinforcing lessons or obsessing about fundamentals,” Dr. Carlsson-Paige notes. “They should simply be reading with their kids—that’s it.”

Use this time to re-engage with your child, asking their feelings about what they are having trouble with and listening without becoming pushy or lecturing.  Ask questions about their opinions of the book; what they would like to see happen, or their favorite parts of the story. When your child knows you are interested and are part of the process, it can rekindle their drive to keep trying.

And parents themselves should not become discouraged by a child who is not picking up reading as early as their peers or struggles with the process.  Some children read by age four; others closer to seven or eight.  All children are different and the key is to instill a love of reading that will last a lifetime.

If you become discouraged or concerned with their progress, it will make them feel insecure and lose their joy for reading. Remaining supportive will let them know you understand their frustration.

Aha! Parenting suggested:

Some parents find their early readers CAN read, but just don’t seem interested in doing so. Most kids go through this stage, but you can help to keep it a brief one. The child’s problem, of course, is that he can read simple books, but his imagination craves more developed plots and characters. Those books are agonizing work, with too many words he doesn’t know. The labor distracts him from the story. The solution? He needs his parents to keep reading to him, to keep him fascinated with the secrets of books. That’s what will motivate him to do the hard work to become a proficient reader.

If your child struggles to the point of frustration that leads to anger or tears, or a complete refusal to read, contact their teacher and set up a time to discuss your concerns.  Or, if you are homeschooling, there are several programs available through local libraries, community centers, or homeschool co-ops that can offer support for struggling readers.

There are many book clubs available for struggling readers, and talking with other parents who are experiencing difficulty in encouraging reading will benefit both parent and child.

TheUniversity of Minnesota CEHD Vision blog has some great suggestions for struggling or frustrated readers:

  1. Encourage kids to read anything—even if it isn’t a book. Magazines or comics are good options.
  2. Know your options as a parent. Ask the teacher for work that is at the student’s developmental level if homework is consistently too hard.
  3. Within reason, never say no to your young reader. If your child is excited about reading about dinosaurs, for example, don’t push him or her to read something else.
  4. Motivate by making connections to real-world outcomes so children realize reading is more than just a grade. For example, writing a letter to their favorite singer, or to grandma, allows young readers to find meaning in what they are doing.
  5. Focus on what your child CAN do. Build on his/her strengths. For example, fold spelling into another activity that your child enjoys to build a sense of competence.
  6. Keep it positive. If your child becomes upset or starts crying, reading will seem like a punishment and that time will not be productive. Rather than being intense, keep the mood light and upbeat and keep your eyes on the goal of enjoying reading.

Above all, incorporate family reading time into every day — and be a good role model by letting your child”catch”you reading every day.  Ask them about their favorite plot twists, funny characters, and favorite genres, and tell them about favorite books you enjoyed at their age.

If you instill a lifelong love of reading, one day your older child will yearn to pick up a book as the most relaxing and enjoyable activity they can think of.

Do you have an older child who is struggling to read?  Or has your child always been an avid reader?  What are your family’s tips for promoting a lifelong love of reading?  Let us know in the comments section below.

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