I was a hypocrite to my students for a very long time. I stressed to them the importance of reading daily, but I was not reading at home. My student’s parents often complain to me that their children refuse to read at home. However, when I ask them if they read at home, they often tell me that they are too busy. However, I have heard some parents discussing the newest telenovela on Telemundo. Children will value what we value, and we show what we value by what we do. If we are going to motivate students to read at home, then we are going to need to model it ourselves, provide students choice and agency to own their reading preferences, while giving our children access to a multitude of reading options.
We all know the struggle of trying to make our children read at home. We make them. In an article by Kylie Rymanowicz from Michigan State University, she states that children learn most by observing others. If we do not show our children that we value reading enough by reading ourselves, then they will not believe us when we tell them that reading is important. An easy way to ensure that we are modeling the importance of reading is by setting up a daily family reading time. This could be a quick 20-30 minute time after dinner, before bed, whenever. During this time, everyone could simply sit around in their favorite chair or couch (or carpet!) and enjoy a good book or magazine. The key is to remain consistent and hold this sacred time at least five times a week.
Besides seeing the adults in their lives enjoy reading, children must also read books that are “just right” for them. A book is considered “just right” if the child is genuinely interested (and excited) about the reading material and if the written content is at their independent reading level. But how can you tell if a book or article is at your child’s reading level? The website Reading Rockets suggests a strategy that I have been using effectively for years in my own classroom. Have the child open the book or article to any page that is full of text and have them read the text out loud. Every time they come across a word that they are unsure of, they simply hold a finger up. If by the end of the page they have come across four or five words that they are not sure of, then that text is more than likely above their reading level.
However, if children are going to select “just right” texts, they must have access to them. Therefore, we must make the local library our best friend. In the library, students can not only browse a larger array of selections than they have at home or at school, but they also have the ability to request specific books that they are interested in. Additionally, what and how children read has changed due to technological advances. Because of this, it is important that we allow students to read online articles and use their technologies to access text.
To conclude, we must show our students that reading is indeed valuable by becoming readers ourselves. By setting up a daily family reading time we can begin this process. Children must also choose books that they actually want to read and that they can read independently. This means that children should have choice in what they are reading. It does not matter if they are reading a comic book, an ESPN sports article, or a video game how-to guide because reading is reading. Lastly, we must make it a habit to frequent our local libraries in order to give students more reading options (including reading from a digital screen!). Neil Gaiman once said, “A book is a dream you hold in your hands.” Well, it is time to start dreaming again.
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