by Lena Arnold
While shopping in the store the other day, I ran into an old friend. After talking for a few minutes I noticed my kids growing restless. “Hold on just a few more minutes, and then we will be on our way to the bookstore.” This sentence was met with squeals of joy and excitement. Their joy did not go unnoticed by my friend.
“What is that about?” She asked. “How did you do that? I have never seen kids get so excited about going to the bookstore? My kids would look at me like I was crazy if I’d said that to them.”
“My kids love reading.”” I responded.
“I can see that,” She replied. “But how did you get them to love it? All my kids want to do is play video games.”
I had to think about it for a minute. At the time I just took it for granted. I never thought I was doing anything special. I still don’t. But since she seemed to think it was, I started thinking about what I was doing. So for those of you who want to know the “secret.” I thought I would share some of the things I did, plus those of a few others. Really, all I did was model what our parents had done for us.
1. Read to Your Children Everyday. Sounds simple enough right? But you would be surprised how many parents don’t do it. I started reading to my children as soon as they were old enough to sit up in my lap and turn a book page. Now initially, all they wanted to do was eat the book, but that’s okay. They learned that books were fun-even if in their mind they were just fun to eat! Our kids are older, and can read for themselves, but we still read to them at night before bed. The special voices and inflections we use help bring the characters to life, and make the reading process more fun and meaningful. Plus they get to ask questions, which leads to other conversations and opportunities to bond with our children. Again, they are learning that books are fun! Fathers, this is even more important, because studies show that kids whose fathers read to them regularly are also more confident and less likely to engage in aberrant behaviors later in life.
2. Take Trips to Libraries and Bookstores! Kids like to go places. They learn from you what places are exciting. For example, the mom that makes the mall a priority, will most likely find herself raising a kids who thinks the mall is a priority. Why is going to the movies fun to a kid?-Because you made their first movie a fun experience. Do the same with reading. We made getting their first library card a big event. They talked to the librarian. We took pictures, and got a treat afterwards to celebrate. We make getting a new book a reward for reaching milestones instead of toys. If the book comes with a toy-BONUS!
3. Make Time for Reading.-Set aside a 30 minute quiet time for reading each day. Allow them to select a quiet place for reading. At first, I would question my kids about what they’d read to be sure they actually did it. But after awhile, I never had to ask because they naturally started telling me about what they were reading. They were excited to share. They asked me more questions, and the next thing I knew-we were bonding again. FUN!
4. Reading Time/Art Time-After reading, I encouraged them to draw pictures of what they’d read. Sometime we used clay. The point is to help their comprehension by tying a visual image to the story. Plus this is a convenient way to sneak in art. Thereby making reading fun.
5. Summer Reading Clubs-In the summer we attend the library book clubs, where they get prizes for reading.
6. Allow them to Select Books that Interest Them-Kids will read what they like. Last summer one of my children only wanted to read about dogs, another trains, another cars. Who cares? Not me. There was plenty of time to expand their world, but for now they were reading and loving it. Who cares if the book is tied to a movie they just watched? They are reading, but more than that, they are making comparisons, and they are adding to the story with their own imagination.
7. Refrain from making Reading a Punishment-Want to kill the love for reading. That’s easy. Just say something like, “If you don’t do what I tell you, I’m going to send you to your room and make you read and write a report.” Now if your kid loves to read this might be a reward-BUT I DOUBT IT. You will only tie reading to a bad experience.
8. Set Limits on Television, Gaming, Computer, and other Media Devices. Having a child know how to use the computer at age 7 is overrated. The same can be used practicing reading skills. Keeping the television on, even if no one is watching is a distraction and inhibits the development of language skills.
9. Be an Active Reader-children do what you do, not what you say.
10. Keep Books in the Bathroom. I know it sounds gross, but look, we all gotta go there. When kids gotta go for a while they get bored. Even a bored kid will pick up a book in the bathroom.
According to an article posted on Parenting online magazine reading is the fundamental skill at the base of all learning. It is simply a confirmed fact that students with strong reading skills tend to do better in school than those with less developed reading skills.
“...reading...nourishes your child's creativity, allowing them to create worlds of their own...think about new ideas and approach problems in imaginative ways...reading also increases the attention span of a child, something which is sadly limited in children today.” Said Kavita Nambissan, a regular contributor on Yahoo Voices
Video games and digital media cannot replace the active reading process. Our brains are hardwired to actively think and it needs time to process the information that is put into it. While video games, computer activities and social media have their place, they were never intended to replace the benefits of dynamic reading practices.
Lena M. Fields-ARNOLD is the author of For This Child We Prayed: Living with the Secret Shame of Infertility, For This Dream We Prayed Companion Journal, Strong Black Coffee: Poetry and Prose to Enlighten, Encourage, and Entertain Americans of African Descent; and In the Absence of My Father.
Her work has been featured in numerous periodicals, including the recently released “Free to Fly: Transitions for the Seasons in a Woman’s Life,” published by InSCRIBEd Inspirations and “The Speaker Anthology,” published by Blooming Twig Books; as well as the soon to be released, “Jackie’s Way: A Children’s Book on Dealing with Anger,” in collaboration with the Columbus based Jazz Artist Mike Fields.
As a motivational speaker, Lena applies the lessons learned from clinical infertility to the social, emotional and spiritual infertility many of us feel in various areas of our lives. As a wife, and mother of three—including her “double blessing” of twin sons—Lena seeks to encourage and empower women, men, and young people to “give birth” to all their dreams!
Lena is also a respected consultant on family and youth issues and has spent the last 20 years working tirelessly on their behalf. She is primarily responsible for helping non-profits & businesses achieve organizational goals through the creation of effective development strategies.
Lena attended Lincoln University in Missouri on a theater scholarship before returning home to Dayton, where she completed her degree in Communications from the Wright State University School of Liberal Arts. She began her career as a journalist and has written for several publications within the Dayton community where she currently resides.
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