Wednesday, April 30, 2008


Sometimes parents get deadened to that prompt we hear so often, "READ WITH YOUR CHILD". In our busy lives, it's a bit difficult to do that and what difference does it make anyway? The answer is, especially in today's educational hothouses, an incredible difference. More than ever, children need to understand that reading isn't about test taking or how fast they can say the words. It's not just something you have to practice at school and forget about otherwise. The amount of interaction each person needs with text in order to become a competent reader varies but it definitely takes practice. Think about playing the piano or learning to ride a bike or playing soccer. All of that takes practice and daily practice routines lead to mastery. In today's word, our children don't just need to "kinda know how to read"; they need to be masters at it.

Whether you grew up yourself with someone reading to you or you don't have a clue about what to do, it's actually the perfect venue for connecting with your child. Sometimes, try it this way:

Start by finding out what your child's passion is (what does he or she LOVE, how does that person focus his/her time, if you ask, "if you could do anything, what would it be?", a passion is the answer).

Next, think about finding not only books but magazines, internet sites and blogs, letters from "experts" that address that passion. You're doing two things: first you are acknowledging that your child's interests are important to you. Secondly, you are tapping into his/her intrinsic motivation, the personal drive to know about a subject or a person or a place. Find those resources and SHARE. Read a little, talk about it, read a little more. Whether your child is 6 or 16, that works!

Sprinkle reading into everyday life and share with your child how you use reading. Think about it: we read in the grocery store, when we drive on errands, in our homes when we make decisions or figure out how to fix or hook up a new appliance or toy. One of the strongest messages we can send is that reading is a tool for life. It's not some artificial thing we do in school to see how many words we can say fast or whether we know how to decode with no errors. Reading is about squeezing the juice of meaning from whatever text we are exploring. Show your child how to do that!

THINKING, WONDERING AND PONDERING over every piece you read helps whether it's a newspaper article or editorial or a picture book. Leave plenty of time for interruptions and conversations. As you and your child interact, you'll both learn about each other and the topic at hand. You'll be surprised, you might even disagree but you are interacting and using oral language to connect to the written word.

The bottom line is that reading can happen anywhere. You don't have to set aside a long time to be quiet with a book with your child. That's certainly a great thing to do and we'll talk more about that later but you can also show your child everyday that reading is an everyday event, not just an academic exercise. And these everyday interactions with words will help pack in the number of practices your child needs at seeing and figuring out words and meaning in order to build competency. No matter what you are reading with your child, remember that main idea is meaning. Squeeze that juice!

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