For the love of reading

For the love of reading

A few months ago, I enrolled Morgan in dance lessons, so every Wednesday afternoon, we have our special grandmother/granddaughter time.  Now that I’ve quit being obnoxious about taking her picture (My iPhone tells me that I’ve taken over a thousand pictures of her….just dancing.), I decided to bring my laptop and get a little bit of work done.

I found a table in the back where I could still see her pirouetting and leaping.  It didn’t take me long to figure out that this was the “homework” table.  An assortment of little boys worked away at their homework while, I assume, their sisters danced away.  But only one caught my attention.

His mom, too, had work to do, a laptop set up on the table.  It held her main focus.  I understand this more than most.  What I don’t understand is the discussion she had with her son over reading.  Sure, I get it.  She’s probably worried about bills and Christmas presents and getting dinner on the table.  The list goes on.  And, honestly, I don’t judge parenting over anything this small.  But, in a way, it’s huge.

Every time this boy, who appeared to be about seven or eight, fidgeted, moved, or looked around at a very busy studio with many distractions, his mom crabbed at him.  About one thing…reading.  “You owe me forty minutes,” she scolded.  “You’ve only given me twenty.  Get to it.”

Her words don’t sound so gruff as I write them, but the way she said them made me cringe.  I felt so sorry for this wiggly little boy.  Even worse, I could tell that he really didn’t want to read.  She’d look away and he’d talk to another little boy, wiggle, stand up and squirm, then pretend he was reading whenever his mother looked his way.  I doubt if he read a single word the entire hour.

It made me sad.  How will this ever foster a love for reading?  And then, I thought, why is she so pressured for this small boy to read for forty minutes?  What is so important about that?  Even worse, why would you expect a young learner to read in a loud, public, and sensory exploding setting?

When it comes time to read, the world should stop.  Magic should float through the air.  There should be only one group of people in the world – the reader and the characters in the book – at least until the child is old enough to learn to read for the sake of reading itself.

Once again, I cast no judgment on this parent.  It could have been a rough day.  Their dog might have died that morning for all I know.  Even so, if you’re having a rough day, please don’t impose this kind of militant reading requirement on a young child who is just navigating the wonders of reading.  Following are some suggestions for helping your learner love to read.

* Don’t make it a chore…make it magical.  Set up a tent.  Pull out some bean bags.  Shut off the television.  Turn off your phone.  Let the wonder of print grab your child.

* Make sure you are in a quiet place with few distractions.  (Not a noisy dance studio)

* Provide as many reading experiences as possible.  You’d be surprised how many options come your way.

* Instead of threatening, reward.  Every time your child reads a paragraph, a page, a book, put a marble or ticket in a jar.  Then when the jar is full, buy a treat.  Of course, you can adjust this to how many tickets or marbles would equate to a treat, and even then, you don’t have to buy anything.  Special time with mom or dad is always perfect.

* Set a good example by reading books.

* Stay calm.  Don’t make reading a battle.

* Take turns reading.  Your child reads one paragraph, you read the next.

* Make it fun!  Find books you can act out and have a play.

* Talk about books whenever you can.  My kids, all grown now, still talk about our special books.

* Read aloud to your children.  I’ll never forget when my youngest child was in fifth grade.  I read chapter books aloud to her every night, even though she was reading well above grade level.  Pretty soon, my seventh-grade daughter came in and plopped onto the bed.  Believe it or not, my oldest child, who was in high school at the time, found his way into story time more nights than not.

I promise, looking back, that those are the times you remember.  Not when you’re pressured to make your child read a certain amount of minutes a day.

To your child’s success,


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