Ages: 6-11: "Have characters that look like me"
Ages 12-17: "Have parents who help them find books and encourage reading for fun in specific ways"
Do I really have to read to my kid for 30 minutes everyday?
I said, not exactly. That's not exactly the way to look at it.
Wait, what? Why not? The pediatrician and teachers told me I had to.
One main reason is because it makes reading seem like a chore. It can be much more creative than that. And oftentimes, there are a few instructions missing when teachers, doctors and librarians ask parents to read to their kids for 30 minutes.
- Your reading for the day doesn't have to include a book.
- Build trust in reading to build enjoyment.
- Get to the library.
- Read and think aloud.
- Read some books multiple times and with different emphases.
- It can be fun. Include jokes in your read aloud time! Or comics, baseball cards, riddles...
When teachers and pediatricians ask parents to read at home, it's because they want kids to be supported in literacy in all places in their lives. Being able to read is so important. It's a life skill. And we all know that. Just reading 30 minutes every day without much training actually shows very mixed results, especially for the younger set. So, what are we to do?
I will delve into the areas in more depth in future posts, but the one I want to focus on today is having access to authentic choices in reading. Ideally, teachers would evaluate what each student is interested in by experiencing life with together, listen to the questions the student has and then develop a set of reading texts that would support the student in reading.
But, it's just not possible for teachers to do this with all of their students, all of the time.
That's where you come in. You can go experience life with your kid. And then building reading from there.
Here's an example. My daughter was really interested in doing a butterfly kit last year. So, we did one. I bought a bunch of books ahead of time that showed us how a caterpillar turns into a butterfly. Some had great pictures, some were only pictures, some were way above her reading level but made good read alouds for us, and some were only somewhat related to gardening.
When we got the stack of books, guess what happened? She wanted to go outside and find butterflies. Perfect idea. So we did that. And when we got back inside, Liliana looked at me and was obviously disappointed. There were no books about ladybugs!
What?! Of course not! We were doing something related to butterflies! We were both frustrated.
Had I done an outside garden walk first - had we lived first, I would have known. I would have heard her questions. I could have better tied butterflies into ladybugs and gardens and showed all of them were related to helping gardens grow. Instead, I was scrambling to find books about ladybugs (good or bad).
I had made the mistake.
I tried a cold open to reading and learning. I counted on the subject being interesting enough, with a hook (the butterfly kit) to get her interested, but ignored that she might have tangential interests that were still pertinent.
I should have warmed her up. Taken her outside, to the farmer's market, the botanical gardens, a museum, or watched a video and listened to her questions. This is true for bigger kids too. It's always better to base your reading with them on something they have real questions about or a real interest in.
It's actually a form of reading comprehension. And, it's good child psychology. Your child is in a zone of proximal development. Your child is ready to learn and understand, with your help.
Text to self connections are one of the first ways we teach readers to understand what they are reading. And, it's one that sticks with every good reader. That's why when kids get older, they want to see characters in books that look like them and act like them too. They are making those same text-to-self connections. They are asking questions while they read - is this believable? Would I do this?
So, I contend to make your reading successful with your readers at home, you need to warm them up. To foster a love of reading, foster a love of living. Listen to what your child is talking about, what gets them speaking up and speaking fast, what lights their eyes up. Then, base your reading time with them on their interests and their questions. Surround them with authentic reading choices.
And yes, experiencing life with them, should absolutely count for your 30 minutes.