When I was a little girl, I loved to go to garage sales with my grandmother and get books for pocket change. These books would open up my world from a single-wide trailer house in Coldspring to the endless possibilities of the universe. My favorite books at the time were the Nancy Drew Mystery Stories.
As I grew older in my middle school years, I enjoyed reading John Grisham’s legal thrillers. My favorite reading spot was outside under a shade tree. Now my reading is done mostly on my Kindle and most of the books I read are nonfiction, but I never did lose that love for reading that began so long ago.
Reading is important. No one can take reading away from you. It’s ingrained in your mind and strengthens those dendrites the more you read and the more you learn. From Readingrockets.org, here are some tips for parents or guardians to encourage reading:
‘‘Read me a story!” Whether snuggled under the covers with peanut-butter sandwiches, or following along with a book on tape while on a road trip, reading together is a powerful tool in motivating your child to read.
Beyond books. Reading material comes in many different shapes and sizes, some of which may be more accessible to a new reader. Video games, magazines and comic books all provide opportunities for reading practice. Other suggestions for sneaking under a wary child’s reading radar include playing board games that involve written instructions, corresponding with a pen pal and turning on the closed captioning on your television. To illustrate the practical side of reading, have your child help you with the grocery list, or leave reminder notes for your child to discover throughout the day.
Keep it fun for everyone. If kids are going to enjoy reading, the experience has to be enjoyable. As you read with your children, keep them involved by asking questions about the story, and let them fill in the blanks. You can also create activities related to the stories you’re reading.
“Look at what I did!” Another successful approach to motivating your child is to use some sort of visible record of achievement. A chart or graph that marks the number of books a child has read gives him or her a sense of accomplishment. To spice it up a bit, choose a theme that goes along with your child’s interests. One example would be a Reading Olympics, where the child goes for the gold by reading a certain number of books.
“I want that one!” Reading should be a choice, not a chore. Make sure there are a variety of books, magazines and other materials available for your child to choose from, wherever your child may be. Let your child’s interests guide his or her reading choices.
Something to talk about. Reading doesn’t have to stop when you put the book down. Talk to your child about books you’ve read and books you think he or she might enjoy. Point out similarities between everyday events and stories you have recently read. If your child has a favorite author, help your child write him or her a letter. For a more structured discussion, consider joining, or starting, a parent/child book club.
Hey, kids! What time is it? Regardless of how motivated your child is, he or she will not read if there isn’t any time to do so. Carve time out of the busy day and dedicate it to reading, both together and on your own.
Currently, I am reading John Maxwell’s “Developing the Leader Within You” in preparation for our upcoming District Leadership Retreat. My daughter, Joslyn, is currently reading “The Hobbit,” an LMS summer reading assignment for eighth-grade GT Language Arts.
For the past week, my greatest joy has been discussing this novel with my daughter each evening when I get home from work.
I have also learned that it is best to set aside specific times for reading, rather than trying to squeeze it in between basketball and cheer practices. As parents, we have to send the message that reading is just as important as any other activity, and that it is a perfect way to spend a summer day.
LaTonya Goffney is the superintendent of Lufkin ISD. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. This column originally appeared in The Lufkin News.