Now that everyone’s minimized their buts (see last week’s article), I want to get into some more specific ideas for learning with your children. Once again, I’m going to make you think in terms of adults before we talk about the kids.
So… what do grown-ups read?
I used to be a big-time novel fanatic, but since I’ve had the girls I find I just don’t have the time, so I mostly read magazines (craft magazines *laugh*). My friend Lisa (who so far doesn’t have any children) still devours novels by the dozen.
On the other hand, I believe that Darren (my husband) and Dean (Lisa’s husband) view novel reading as some sort of cruel torture. Between the two of them, I figure they’ve likely read about 6 ½ novels, 10 of which were assigned as required reading in University *wink*. However, they both have an amazing ability to sit down with a technical computer book and pour over it for hours. Not to mention their love of do-it-yourself home plumbing manuals (I believe the actual title was something like “how-to-torture-your-spouse-in-ten-easy-lessons” *shudder*).
My dad reads a total of 235 newspapers each and every day (well… maybe not 235, but he does read a lot of newspapers). I’ve never seen him read a novel, a craft magazine or a do-it-yourself home plumbing manual. Having said that, he owns more novels than I do (I don't know if it's just for looks or if its the sign of a misspent youth... like I said, I've never seen him read one).
From cookbooks to computer screens, grown-ups enjoy reading a myriad of different materials. And, our reading preferences seem to change over time as our lives and interests evolve.
So why is it that we assume that all kids should love reading Dr. Seuss? And if they fail to conform to our “what a girl wants, what a girl needs…” expectations we figure something must be wrong with THEM. I mean, I loved “Green Eggs and Ham”… so what’s wrong with Tasha?
There are as many different materials for children’s reading as there are for adults. But most of us don’t make full use of all of these options. If you find your child seems to lack an attention-span in the reading department… maybe you're providing them with novels when they'd rather be reading science magazines!
The first thing I would suggest you do is to find some standard children’s books with your child’s interests in mind. Once again, you know better than anyone else what your kid likes (if in doubt, try asking them). Head over to the library (by yourself even!) and spend some time pouring through the children’s books (or log onto Amazon.com's children's section and use their search function… it can give you some good leads even if you don’t plan to buy). Look for books on ballet or soccer or firetrucks or, yes, even Barbie and Pokemon! It matters THAT they read more than it matters WHAT they read.
Next step… head over to the non-fiction section. Most libraries have a juvenile non-fiction section. Many of the words in these books may be too tough for your child to read alone but as parents, our main responsibility is to work on encouraging a love of reading. We can leave the reading of books comprised completely of words that rhyme with “AT” to the teachers.
In the non-fiction section, again… look for books that match your child’s interests. There are books on crafting, music, dinosaurs, sports, riddles, science experiments, nature, animals and a million other things. When reading these together, be interactive. Look at the pictures, do the crafts or experiments, discuss the things you’re reading. Make this an adventure!
There is a magazine out there for every hobby and interest! Search through your library for ones that might interest your child. If you choose an adult magazine, make sure you flip through it first for inappropriate material. When looking through the magazine with your children, once again, remember how adults read. You don’t have to read every article! Let the children skim the magazine and when something catches their eye, read through it with them. If they get bored of the article half way through, move on to the next (we’ve all done it, so why shouldn’t they!)
This isn’t actually my favorite place to read with my girls. There’s lots of waiting and searching. It requires a fair amount of patience. If you do plan to read with your children on the web, spend some time alone bookmarking good sites (bookmark exactly the part you think they’ll want to read).
Spend a day keeping track of how many times you read. Road signs, store signs, recipes, advertisements, notes, instructions on boxes, etc. I don’t think most children realize how much adults read (we typically don’t do it out loud!).
I’m pretty sure, my girls think it’s some sort of adult magic that allows me to find the way to Grandma’s house, cook a new recipe for supper or find the can of pineapple rings when we’re shopping. Try reading things out loud a bit more… sure, the other grownups in the grocery store might look at you funny, but it will help your children realize how important reading is to our daily lives.
I added a little story to the Thanksgiving section about Tasha’s strawberry salad. Although the exercise had nothing to do with reading at the time, we sure read a lot!
If you read Green Eggs and Ham, make some! (a bit of green food coloring added to scrambled eggs actually makes them green).
You can visit our Book Breaks for some other activities and crafts to accompany a few different books.
This is likely the most important point I’m going to make.
When I was studying for my Chartered Accounting final exam, I posted sticky notes of bizarre tax facts all over my house. (Darren thought I’d lost it, but I was one of the 49% in Alberta that year that passed the exam... even though I had a one year old to take care of at the time). It really helped me to see the information every day.
Er, though it was a bit embarrassing when guests came out of our bathroom knowing how to do a section 85 rollover…
Try adding “road signs and advertisements” to your house (always try to add pictures to your signs to help the kids get used to reading in context)
Put books or magazines of various types everywhere! Stick some in the bathroom (dads read in there so why can’t the kids?), some in the car, some in the kitchen, some in the bedrooms, some in the playroom, some in the diaper bag, some in the gym bag, etc, etc. Make reading an easily accessible and regular part of everyday life.