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Jane Kise: Reading for Enjoyment is Mandatory!

At our house we have two natural bookworms: my son and me. The week he learned to read, we could barely tear him away from a book at his cousin’s birthday party to join in the fun. Is it any surprise he ended up an English major?

Our daughter learned to read at the same age and can list several books that were childhood favorites. However, reading presented a huge problem for her—it requires sitting fairly still, which is simply not something she enjoys! It helped her to sit next to one of her parents instead of reading all by herself.

The more we understand about what helps children succeed as learners—and how essential it will be in the future to be a lifelong learner—the more it’s clear that helping our kids find a way to enjoy reading is as big a responsibility for parents as keeping them physically safe, clothed and fed! You see, back in the old days when I graduated high school, knowledge was so stable that educators assumed I left school with 75% of the facts I needed for life. Now that estimate is 3% for current grads because information changes so fast. They need to be able to learn—and even learning through information on the web requires reading. 

 

Here’s what you can do as a parent to foster reading enjoyment:

  • Model it. Don’t be like the woman my friend overheard at a furniture store who said to her companion, “It’s too bad I don’t read books because those shelves would be cute in the living room…” Read books, not just magazines and newspapers, in front of your kids. It doesn’t have to be Proust or Thoreau, it just needs to have pages (ebooks definitely count). Thrillers, biographies, business books, fantasies—anything to model that reading can be entertainment.
  • Balance reading and electronic entertainment. Know that no matter what you’re watching on television, brain research shows that your brain goes inactive—and that includes public television shows! We all need downtime, but casually ensure that everyone in the house knows that TV is completely and totally passive.
  • Talk about “what you see.” Good readers automatically picture a “movie” in their heads while reading a story. It turns out that many children who claim not to like to read haven’t developed this skill. If you’re reading aloud, start by modeling (in short bursts—don’t “kill” the story) how you picture something, like, “I bet Wendy’s flitting all around Peter’s head in this scene.” Ask them how they think a room or forest or animal might look.

In short, do whatever it takes to make reading a book as exciting as other family activities. After all, they come without commercials, are ready to begin whenever you are, and can be shared easily. Books are way better than TV and video games in so many ways!

Jane is an educational consultant, specializing in teambuilding, coaching, and school staff development. She is also the coauthor of more than 20 books. Jane’s website  is http://www.edcoaching.com/