THREE WAYS TO ENCOURAGE INDEPENDENT READING
If your children associate “reading” only with compulsory school assignments, they’re missing a lot. Kids who enjoy independent reading reap tons of benefits:
- They broaden their vocabulary and their ability to comprehend what others are communicating.
- They learn to see situations from multiple points of view.
- They’re exposed to a variety of ideas, opinions, and worldviews.
- They have fewer boredom issues.
- They learn to concentrate on one thing at a time.
- They come to see learning new things—throughout life—as something they want to do, not something they have to do.
As winter break approaches, here are a few ideas to get your children interested in putting some of that free time toward reading for fun.
1. Set an Example
Before you complain that your children “just aren’t interested in reading,” consider how often they see you reading anything besides email or the news. If you keep telling yourself you’ll read the classics “when I get around to it,” know that your kids will do as you do, not as you say.
If you’ve been neglecting independent reading yourself, you and your children can rediscover it together. Take them to the library, or dig through your bookshelves, and find a story you can all enjoy. Then sit down and take turns reading it out loud to each other (please don’t get impatient if younger readers seem slow at first), repeating every evening until it’s finished and you’re all eager to start a new story.
2. Match Reading Options to Their Interests
“Recommended reading” lists are fine (and every child should have opportunity to sample the annual Caldecott winners, the annual Newbery winners, and the children’s classics), but rarely is any individual child going to like every book on any particular list. Plus, some excellent books invariably miss the final cut, so go beyond checking “official” recommendations. Know what nonfiction topics and story genres actually interest your kids; then show them the corresponding section at the library and let them take it from there.
3. Consider Giving Them E-Readers
Of course, these days there’s an electronic version of every book that’s printed in hard copy—and of many that aren’t. As electronic screens have innate differences from paper, their value for young children is a matter of some controversy. On the one hand, screens are easier to break, cause eyestrain more frequently, and generate more “multitasking” temptations. On the other, you save a lot of weight—and a lot of waiting for specific titles—with e-books. This is a decision for you to make, based on your individual situation and values as well as your children’s preferences. But even with e-readers, always keep some print books on hand, or someday you’ll be caught in a power outage or a “turn all devices off” situation with the kids whining about “nothing to do!”
One last suggestion: when your kids do love reading but have none immediately available, hand them pencil and paper and suggest they take a turn at writing stories. It will have taken only a little independent reading to fill their heads with ideas!