Translate

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Encourage Reading Anyway You Can!

(this article originally appears in the 7/19/11 edition of The Review Atlas as a part of my Practical Parenting series)

http://www.flickr.com/photo8/
 I can always tell who the last one to sit in the bathroom is based on what reading materials are left next to the toilet. Never mind that I have a basket set up that holds all sorts of books, crossword puzzles, maps and magazines to keep all periodicals organized, my family regularly neglects to return their reading materials to their proper organizational container. This tends to drive me as crazy as when they refuse to reload the toilet paper holder the proper way; with the paper hanging over not under!

I wonder if my family will kill me for discussing our bathroom habits publicly?

Truth is while I get aggravated that my kids don’t put stuff back where they found it I am more pleased that they are reading. Even in the bathroom? Yep, even in the bathroom!

Around five years of age children learn to read and for most of them this can be a very exciting time. Kids’ eyes become open to the exciting world of print and they begin to notice words on everything from commercials to food packages and street signs to remote controls. They become voracious readers and have an innate drive to read as much as they can.

So what happens? Where did all that love for reading go? Shouldn’t we be surrounded by a plethora of adults who long for books and information? Why aren’t all our noses stuck in a good novel? Why do we love reading when we learn how to do it but abandon that same affection as we grow older?

A shift happens, shortly after we master the skill, when reading stops being entertaining and becomes primarily educational in purposes. In the beginning, a book contains story and wonder but soon we assign reading for homework, for retention and for good grades. Reading is no longer pleasurable but a chore and for many that association is so overwhelming that they lose the drive and, sadly the time, to read for enjoyment. Reading becomes work. Hard work.

And that’s precisely why I have strategically placed books in our bathroom.  I believe children, who can read, will read if parents accommodate two basic needs: interest and accessibility.

Since we understand that reading greatly enhances our children’s success at school, parents should make sure books are available to their children. Sometimes we must be very sneaky about it (i.e. my bathroom). If your child does not love reading you should evaluate where reading materials are placed in your home. Take the kitchen table for example, how many of us sit and read the same cereal box over and over? Why? Because we are a captured audience and there is nothing else to do so we read what’s in front of us! A discerning mom once told me her trick to get her kids reading at breakfast. She keeps a pile of newspapers, advertisements and junk mail on her kitchen table. Her kids stopped fighting because they are too interested in reading the comics and want ads! Brilliant!

Kids, even those that say they hate reading, will pick up a magazine that captures their attention. Parents should know what interests their children and set out corresponding items. Think beyond books. Imagine setting out Sudoku, word searches, magazines, newspapers, junk mail and comic books. Sometimes we mistakenly believe that if our children are not reading the latest Newbery Award winner that they are not reading.

This is not so! Some of the most popular items read in my home today are picture encyclopedias, collectible pricing guides, how to draw, Guinness world record and movie books. These books, while a far cry from the classics, are devoured by my children. When parents take the time to make available reading materials that match a child’s interest they find that the amount of time spent reading rises significantly.
Children who are encouraged to read for fun are more likely to make room in their lives for reading than those who feel that reading is purely academic.

So when the house plan book is left out I know my husband’s been in the bathroom, Dr. Seuss books indicate the twins have been visiting and when I find the sports section of the paper I know it’s my sons who have been sitting on the throne. Each time I go into the bathroom I mumble under my breath as I straighten up the hand towels, wipe dried toothpaste out of the sink and pick up the books left on the floor.  But then I stop and remind myself to be thankful that they are reading.

If, by the way, you think I’m being unfair neglecting to mention my periodical of choice when I’m in the bathroom, well you’re a little naïve. Mother’s of young children don’t have time to read in the bathroom. Every time I sit down someone inevitably yells, “MOM!” and pounds on the locked door. How do I know? Because I’m a mom and I live that reality everyday! That’s how!

No comments:

Post a Comment

AddThis Smart Layers