Friday, June 10, 2011

Improve Your Child's Reading Levels

Lately I've been reading some disturbing stuff about the fate of books and libraries, and the decline of children's reading levels. It is ironic that in England the law says prisons have to have libraries, but libraries are closing in schools and boroughs because of spending cuts. I've also been reading how some children never open a book and as a result their grades suffer. On many occasions the reason is that there are no books to open! Believe it or not, there are homes with not a single book to read. Whatever the reasons for a child not reading, this situation can be reversed. Can parents make a difference and turn a non-reader into an avid reader? The answer is yes!

Parents already know that books are vital to their child’s scholastic achievements, and developing life skills. It can be disappointing when your child expresses absolutely no interest in reading. However, you can change that by coming up with new and interesting ways to ‘package’ the art of reading. Reading is a skill, just like any other skill. It has to be introduced, nurtured, and developed. Imagine trying to play championship tennis when you can barely hit the ball? Children don’t enjoy what they can’t do. And when reading is difficult, they shy away from even coming near a book. Turning your non-reader into a reader will require your participation and encouragement every step of the way.

• A good way to begin is to actually assess your child’s reading level. If it’s below par, then that’s one reason why he or she isn’t keen on books—books are the enemy, boring, a problem. Have your child read a page or two from a variety of books. Make a list of the words they find easy/hard/not understood. Once you have an idea of their level, based on vocabulary skills, then you can move forward. In fact, to build your child’s confidence, perhaps begin with a book for a younger age. Your child will skim through it, feeling proud at having finished and understood it, and you can offer praise by saying, “Look how easily you managed that! Shall we try something else?”

• A book can appear quite a formidable object to a non-reader. Begin small. Start with a thinner book, not some great tome, and say, “I bet we’ll finish this quickly.” Then let your child read the book in bite-sized pieces. Don’t try for ten pages—read only four or five pages. Your child will feel this is not a huge task after all.

• Reading aloud is something that all parents should do, regardless of children’s age. Most children really love that special time when Mom or Dad comes in to say good night. You can say, “Hey! I’ve got something really exciting here. Want to hear some?” Anything to delay turning off the light, your child will say (of course) “Yeah!” You can make this session into something really memorable by acting the parts and using your Repertoire of Funny Voices, but more importantly, stop at a really exciting point, just when the hero is about to be plunged into mortal danger. Close the book and say, “Gosh! I hope he survives. We’ll have to wait until tomorrow to find out.” Generally, no kid can go to sleep without confirming their hero is indeed still alive…

• Praise and admiration boost a child’s confidence. You can do this by letting friends and family members know just how well your child is doing. “It’s amazing how many pages (child’s name) is reading every day now!” Soon your child will be the one to suggest reading. Use the time together to understand your child’s thought processes, and structure the book choices around what really sparks their interest.

• Get your child their own library card and encourage them to begin choosing their own material. Buying book vouchers instead of other kinds of gifts will encourage your child to start building their ‘own’ collection of cherished books.

• Go slowly—tennis champions aren’t made overnight….
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