Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Reflections on Reading

I was on the Reflections committee for my daughter’s elementary school this year and as such was in charge of picking out all of the prizes. Reflections is sponsored by the national PTA--students all over The United States can participate.We had limited funds, of course and used book fair money—basically free money the school had earned—to help buy a lot of the prizes.

This means that many of the prizes were books. In fact, every single student who won received a book and something else for their prize. The PTA president thought this was a wonderful idea because we were helping to get books back into the student’s hands. I loved the idea because I love the Reflections program. It inspires creativity in children. Creativity and reading go hand in hand for me, but I love books. I understand books. I write books. When I open the pages of a book, my creative mind starts spinning with images, thoughts, and ideas and I become engrossed in the world created for me through the written word.

I have heard some terrible things lately. Words that make my heart ache for our children.

“My child hates to read.”

“If Sally were to receive a book for a prize, she would think that was so stupid.”

What I would like to ask is how much responsibility do we as parents have to influence the attitude our children have about reading?

You can probably guess my answer to this question—I think we have a huge responsibility. No, we can’t force our children to love to read, but we can help them recognize the magic of the written word.

I understand that many children and adults do not like to read, but I would argue that every child enjoys being read to.

This is the key.

If you want to help your child find a love of reading, you need to read to them. No—reading to them once or twice a week is not enough. You need to read to your child every day.

“But I don’t have enough time.”

For children 8 and under, many picture books and beginning readers only take three minutes or less to read. Do you have three minutes?

For older children, ten minutes can usually get you through two chapters of a book.

It is advised and preferable to read to your children for 15 minutes each day. If that seems overwhelming, then start small. Even reading one book to your child each day can make a difference.

And back to the attitude about reading. When your child says, “I hate to read.” Don’t ever allow that statement to be taken at face value. Find out why.

I have heard countless stories of avid readers who never found their reading nook until they were in junior high or even in college because they were reading the type/genre of book that didn’t interest them before. Perhaps you can help your child search in different genres to find what they like.

Here is some food for thought. When you tell other people, “My child hates to read.” What in fact are you saying about your child? Does your child overhear you make such statements? Do they know you think this about them? It’s very likely that they do and if this is the case then you are encouraging them to hate reading by reinforcing this negative statement.

Don’t allow your child to make general statements about hating to read. Encourage them to qualify or specify their statement. Perhaps they hate to read fantasy or romance or vice-versa. That’s fine. That’s an opinion. But you cannot hate to read and survive in this world.

Reading is how we learn. Reading is how we excel in school. Reading is how we find jobs.

But wait, you might say, we can learn so much from watching television and listening to lectures.

Even the news and news programs use headlines, ticker strips, and attention grabbing phrases because words emphasize. Words teach.

And it is proven fact that people who are good readers have higher comprehension levels which means that they can listen to the same lecture or television program and gain more from it than a non-reader because they have trained their brain to be efficient in gleaning knowledge.

Ask any teacher at any level—how do their students learn? They must know how to read and read well.

I’m not writing this because I intend to lambast every parent who tells me their child hates to read. I’m writing this because I hope that perhaps someone out there might catch themselves the next time they open their mouths to utter something negative about their child and understand their role in shaping the way their child sees the world.

I hope that someone who reads this will take a few minutes tonight before they put their kids to bed and read them a book.

I hope that someone who hears their child say they hate to read will take the time to find out something about reading that they do enjoy, because once you find some part of reading a child enjoys, they will no longer be able to say they hate to read.

I have more information on this topic that I’d like to share, so I’ll continue this in another post and add the link at that time.

Happy reading!


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