Monday, April 21, 2014

For the Love of Reading

When my first child was 6-months old, I read the same board book to him every night.  It was a book about noises.  He became so familiar with it, that when he saw the pictures, he would make the sounds and use hand gestures, even though he could not say the words.  He was reading!

I made a habit of reading to him each night, and he looked forward to it.  As he got older, we went to the library once a week and took home a bag full of books.

Start them young
At three, my son was reading independently; and by first-grade, he tested sixth-grade reading level.  I encouraged independent reading every night at bedtime; we called it Quiet Time.  He would choose several library books to read quietly to himself before lights out.

Reading should be fun and enjoyable!

I followed the same formula with my second child, reading to her as a baby every night.  She did not read independently until after five years.  Once I caught her reading a Dick and Jane book aloud to her stuffies; then I encouraged her to read to herself during her own Quiet Time.  She is fourteen now, and sometimes I catch her reading books or on her Nook when she should be doing algebra.  The habit has almost worked against her because all she wants to do is read.

Caught reading again

Now I have three more young ones to train up to be voracious readers.  They are under the age of ten, and all three read independently.  I was so excited when my five- and six-year olds made the final transition, just this year. They are reading on their own.  When they come to words they do not know, we sound them out.  And if they struggle, I tell them what it is.

It is not difficult to teach children to read, and they will when they are ready.  But the most important thing is to surround them with books.  Read to them, read with them, and encourage them to read to you when they are ready. Go to the library often, and bring home tons of books.  Read books over and over again, too.  Make it so that they do not know anything else, that having books around and reading is not a foreign concept. Make it commonplace.  Make it home. Once they know how to read, they can learn just about anything.  And I have not even touched on what reading does for writing, spelling, vocabulary, comprehension, and the imagination.

So, when I read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to my three youngest, I wholeheartedly agreed with this section where Mike Teavee, one of the children with the Golden Ticket, was sucked up by the TV and taken away.  The Oompa Loompas had this advice for parents (a portion of their song about replacing the TV with books):

'All right!' you'll cry.  'All right!' you'll say,
'But if we take the set away,
What shall we do to entertain
Our darling children?  Please explain!'

We'll answer this by asking you,
'What used the darling ones to do?
'How used they keep themselves contented
Before this monster was invented?'

Have you forgotten?  Don't you know?
We'll say it very loud and slow:
THEY...USED...TO...READ!  They'd READ and Read,
AND READ and READ, and then proceed
TO READ some more.  Great Scott!  Gadzooks!
One half their lives was reading books!

The nursery shelves held books galore!
Books cluttered up the nursery floor!
And in the bedroom, by the bed,
More books were waiting to be read!

Such wondrous, fine, fantastic tales
Of dragons, gypsies, queens, and whales
And treasure isles, and distant shores
Where smugglers rowed with muffled oars,

And pirates wearing purple pants,
And sailing ships and elephants,
And cannibals crouching 'round the pot,
Stirring away at something hot.
(It smalls so good, what can it be!
Good gracious, it's Penelope.)

The younger ones had Beatrix Potter
With Mr. Tod, the dirty rotter,
And Squirrel Nutkin, Pigling Bland,
And Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle and -
Just How The Camel Got His Hump
And How The Monkey Lost His Rump,

And Mr. Toad, and bless my soul,
There's Mr. Rat and Mr. Mole -
Oh, books, what books they used to know,
Those children living long ago!

Check out lots of books from the library
If you'd ask me, I'd say that Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is not exactly complex writing, but the storyline is perfect for children.  What's not to love about a kid in a candy factory?  When I read the last word of the last chapter, my six-year old shouted (he's very excitable), "THAT'S THE BEST STORY EVER!"  To me, it wasn't riveting; but to him, it was awesome!  And that's what really matters because it is establishing a foundation for the love of reading.