Train a Child to Read: Entry 3

Recently I offered free books to parents who could explain the most creative ways they have used to train their children to read and to appreciate books. I’ve chosen three finalists. The third entry comes from Lisa. Lisa writes:

I have taught four of our kids to read. Some of our kids loved it and it came easily, others struggled and needed more encouragement, but there’s a way to get through to every kid!

1. Make it fun!

When our kids were little we decoded and learned words by writing them on anything BUT paper. We wrote them in flour filled cookie-tins or outside on the driveway with chalk held in our toes, or played H-O-R-S-E with the basketball (except spelling out other words).

We turned our spelling words into puzzles and cut out images of what shape a word would be if the letters were invisible (the shape of a word is a great aid in learning it!). We rolled out Play-doh ‘snakes’ and turned them into letters and words. We spelled words with Nestle Chocolate morsels (and then ate them!). Anything to get them to think about how words are built and have some fun along the way. Visual leaning is a great standard tool, but kinetic learning has it’s advantages too!

2. ‘Salt the oats’

Encourage a long-life affection for literature by reading captivating books to them. Like no other approach, this develops a hunger for reading in them. Little ears have an appreciation for classics and great literature well before little eyes can decode the visuals of advanced language.

It’s important that story time is not laundry-time or dish-washing-time, it’s story-time, it’s time to delight in the pure joy of being enraptured in a tale.

The best feedback for me came at the end of a chapter, when a chorus of voices pleaded, “Mom, read just one more chapter? Pleeeeaaasseeee!”

Even now on occasion, when I read classics to my little ones, I catch the teenagers quietly coming into the room too, just to be part of the journey again.

Note: This habit created an affection for stories and a joy in literature in one child long before she was diagnosed with dyslexia. After the diagnosis, we made more use of audio books for her texts as well as for her pleasure reading. The American Printing House for the Blind (and others) have great audio resources for people who struggle with the printed word. After all, he goal is the absorption of great books, not the movement of eyes across a page! Dyslexia and other learning disabilities can snuff out a love of reading and be very discouraging if the love of books isn’t already secure.

3. Practice

Improvement in reading, like anything else, only comes with practice. So we varied their personal reading with level-appropriate biographies, mysteries, historical fiction, subscribed to sports magazines and nature magazines, enjoyed how-to books… everything!

There’s something for every child on the shelves of your local library. We set goals, made charts, joined book clubs for kids, got free pizzas from Pizza Hut through their reading program (Book It), and enjoyed book reviews from siblings around the dinner table.

Also, since a reward can be motivational and can add to a child’s pleasure in reading, a special, chosen treat often awaited them after meeting their reading goals.

Happy reading!

Winners will be contacted via email on Wednesday. Thanks for the entry, Lisa.

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