By Dr. Raymond J. Huntington
Most parents understand the importance of reading aloud to young children – it encourages listening, helps develop language skills and vocabulary, and teaches children to associate reading with enjoyment. However, as your child grows older and becomes busy with school, homework and extracurricular activities, he or she may not have as much interest – or time – in reading for fun. How can you encourage your child to develop a regular reading habit, despite the distractions of television, computers and video games? Here are several tips for parents striving to raise a child to enjoy and appreciate reading:
Spend time at the library. Parents hear it time and time again, the library is a haven for families who value and encourage reading. From an early age, take your child to the library for story time and other free activities and events. Visit often. Get your child his or her own library card, and let him or her pick out books. Join family book clubs and enroll your child in reading groups or clubs offered for his or her age group as well.
Create a home library. Make it easy for your child to act on his or her desire to read by ensuring he or she has access to a variety of age-appropriate reading material – books, magazines and more. You don’t have to spend a fortune on your child’s book collection. Try browsing used bookstores, online discount retailers or the bargain bins at larger chain bookstores.
Schedule reading time. As school and family life becomes busier for your child, fun reading can become an activity that falls by the wayside. Commit to incorporating pleasure reading into your child’s, and your family’s, life by setting aside time for it each day, whether that’s the 20 minutes before bedtime, the 20 minutes before dinner or another time of day.
Make it fun. Remember, parents, if reading becomes yet another “have-to” in your child’s life, he or she will quickly become uninterested. Try not to force reading on your child, but rather, pay attention to what attracts your child’s attention and offer him or her reading materials on that topic. No matter what your child is interested in – science, pop culture, horses or airplanes – there are likely many written materials on the subject.
Consider the alternatives. Reading comes in many forms, so don’t be concerned if your child chooses to read the book version of that blockbuster he or she just saw rather than a classic children’s story. The key to instilling a love of reading in your child is to help him or her feel successful at it. Children who enjoy reading will naturally do it more often, so magazines, comic books or books your child has read before are still okay – as long as your child has fun while reading.
Keep reading aloud. As your child becomes an increasingly independent reader, he or she may be less likely to request stories at bedtime but that certainly doesn’t mean you should stop reading aloud to your older child. Try reading a chapter book that your child, or the whole family, is interested in. Even make this a nightly family activity. Having your child read aloud is great practice as well. Ask him or her to read you that newspaper article, recipe or set of directions, and provide assistance with the difficult words. Encourage your older child to read to his or her younger siblings, too.
Reading helps your child build his or her vocabulary and comprehension, gain new perspectives and succeed in school. As a parent, you can help your child develop and enjoy this vital skill by making it a regular part of his or her day, and more importantly, by making it fun. If your child struggles with reading and resists reading aloud (or reading at all), call Huntington for help. We can perform a diagnostic assessment of your child’s current abilities and identify the root of the problem. Our customized learning programs help children build confidence and succeed on their own.
Dr. Raymond J. Huntington and Eileen Huntington are co-founders of Huntington Learning Center, which has been helping children succeed in school for more than 30 years. Parents who want additional information are encouraged to call the local Encino Huntington Learning Center at (818) 907-5557 or (800) CAN-LEARN.