March is reading month and in honor of the Share a Story - Shape a Future, I wanted to share our story of how our kids learned to read.
In our home, helping the kids learn to read was what we called 'a full contact sport'.
Continuous encouragement (and honestly, even some arguing).
It was not an easy task.
Both of our kids have always loved books but let me tell you, learning to read can be challenging for kids!
When our kids were young, they enjoyed listening to books, and they loved to look at books, and they even played with books --
But when it came time to learn how to read, our kids did NOT like books (at least for a while they didn't).
As parents, my husband and I learned A LOT during this whole process.
At times, it was very frustrating.
And yes, we dreaded reading homework on many nights. But we also came up with a few great strategies and ideas for keeping the 'book love' alive while learning to read.
Our kids had some great ideas and we listened to those ideas - that's one of the keys!
So, if you have kids who are starting to read -- here's what we learned:
Exercise Before You Read
One of our biggest challenges was trying to get the kids to sit still and work on their sight words and pronunciation. After a long day of sitting in school, the last thing they wanted to do was to sit down and read a book.
So, we made sure to give them some outdoor time before we sat down to practice. On bad weather days, we let them go a little crazy in the house. Anything to burn off a little energy so they would WANT to sit down.
Let Kids Choose the Books
When the easy reader or 'baggie books' started coming home from school, we noticed that both of our kids were not interested in the types of books they were bringing home.
If you've ever read an early reader/level reader type of book, they really don't have much of a plot. They are designed to teach kids new words.
And that's where part of the problem lies.
Kids who love books know that a good book has a plot - it engages them. These books were not engaging.
So, we met with the teacher. And then we met with the librarian. We learned that there were other genres of books available at the school (just not in their classroom). And we arranged for the kids to choose some of the books that were coming home for practice.
Both of our kids really enjoyed non-fiction books and mystery stories - they would much rather read about animal facts or solve clues in short sentences than "See Dick Run" type of stories.
Talk to your child's teacher and ask them what types of books are available. Some kids enjoy non-fiction, others may want to read books that have certain illustrations. If the kids have some involvement in choosing the book, they are more likely to want to practice.
Read Along with Them
The other task that seemed very daunting to our kids was 'reading a whole book'. It took a loooong time to get through those 12 pages (even with only one sentence on each page).
We found it was important to encourage them to 'just get started'. So we set up a few ways to help them feel accomplished as they read:
- Instead of reading the whole book in one sitting, start with just a few pages.
- Have your child read one page and then you read the next page. When practicing the book the second time, alternate pages so your child reads the one that you had read during your previous sitting.
- Use a fun reading aid as you read -- a magnifying glass that makes the word you're reading look really big, one of those witch fingers that kids can wear and point to the word as they read it, or any other item that helps them to make reading fun.
And our last piece of advice -
Be Patient, Be Patient, Be Patient
It is a tough process but it's so worth it (obviously, right!) It's such a great feeling when your child sits down to read you a book.
But it may take a while. Some kids catch on quickly while others take a while to make the connection.
And believe me, it can be frustrating for the kids too. This might be the first time your child actually has to work hard to master a skill. So not only are they learning to read, but they are also learning a life lesson in perserverance.