Why is reading engagement so important?
Simply put, engaged readers have an investment in reading that transfers to a variety of situations and yields valuable learning. Engaged readers are devoted students who are intent on reading to understand. In focusing on meaning, they avoid distractions and they utilize positive reading strategies with minimal effort. These students engage with their peers to share ideas and questions about text. They are intrinsically motivated to read for knowledge and enjoyment. Reading expert, Richard Allington, writes that reading engagement is the most powerful instructional activity for supporting reading growth.
What can I do to help my child become an engaged reader?
At the heart of becoming an engaged reader is having positive experiences as a reader. As parents, we can help our children with this in many ways. Perhaps the most direct and impactful way, however, is by reading to our children. Not only is reading together a time to foster a close and connected bond, but it is also a time for your child to relax and simply enjoy stories or information.
Another way to help your child become an engaged reader is to consciously model being a reader yourself. If reading itself is not pleasurable to you, maybe listening to books would be. Try to find a way for your child to see you reading and to talk to your child about who you are as are reader. Not everything needs to be rosey. It’s ok for kids to know that reading takes work for adults too.
What should I do if I don’t have enough time for reading with my child(ren)?
There is not easy answer to this dilemma, and the answer will likely be different for each family. That said, you might try to make reading a routine. If you find a way to insert reading into a consistent, routinized part of your day with your child, it is less likely to get squeezed out by other things. Sometimes it works for everyone in the family to read together and sometimes it doesn’t. If you need to do multiple reading “shifts” for the various children in your family, you might try alternating independent reading and reading to the child. While “child one” reads to himself, you can read to “child two.” And while “child two” either goes to sleep or reads to herself, you can read to “child one.” Similarly, you can alternate with morning and evening or days of the week. In my house, as soon as I start reading to one child, the other one inevitably ends up wanting to listen in (even if it’s a book that he/she claimed they didn’t want to hear initially).
What can I do if my child can never find a book that he / she wants to read?
Use all the knowledge you, as a parent, have about your child and use it to your advantage. When you go to a bookstore or library, ask for recommendations that relate to your child’s interests.
A second piece to this dilemma, however, is helping your child learn to give new books a chance. Often times children resist what they don’t know. You might be able to relate to this and can share your own experiences with resisting the unknown. Set a goal and read to the goal. When you get to the goal, ask your child how it is going and what is or isn’t working about the book for him.
Sometimes our children resist reading because they are struggling to comprehend the text. If you think this is the case, you can support your child by helping your child set the scene / the premise for the story. You could talk out loud about what you know about he book so far, for example. If the book is set during a period in history that your child is not very familiar with, you might find photographs or a video of that period to look at and talk about before reading the book.
What can I do if my child resists reading?
Think about what he is actually resisting. Is he resisting story? AIs he resisting information? is he resisting the assignment their teacher gave to them? Is he resisting your questioning as he reads with you? Is he resisting the type of book he is reading? If you can identify the resistance, that can help you to address this situation.
If your child is a reluctant reader, the most important thing you can do is help him to have positive, joyful experiences with books. Your child needs to know that just because reading has not felt “good” so far, it does not mean he is incapable of enjoying reading. So, to start with, take away whatever is causing the resistance. Build a safe and enjoyable reading environment at home. If that means that you exclusively read to your child for a while, that is ok. If that means that you and your child listen to audiobooks, that is ok. Just don’t give up on reading all together! While you are working on building a positive reading experience for your child, also take the time to speak with your child’s teacher(s). There might be instruction that your child needs and can get at school to support your child’s reading engagement. Teachers can’t help if they don’t know what is happening at home.
Finally, a community can be motivating. If your child has friends with similar interests, a book club could be a source of motivation and also a way for you and your child to join a reading community together.
What is the difference between independent reading and reading to my child?
Independent reading is when we read to ourselves. It is important for growing readers to grow in their ability to read independently. In schools, we often refer to this as growing reading stamina. We want children to be able to get lost in books and focus on the story or information for substantial periods of time while making meaning, learning new things, and having a good time. In other words, we want them to be engaged readers!
Reading to your child, known in schools as “read aloud,” is an opportunity for you and your child to bond over a book. The book could be chosen by either you or your child, and it most likely is beyond your child’s independent reading ability either in terms of the words that need to be decoded, the content of the story, or both.
How can I help my child have a good relationship with reading if I don’t have one?
Find a way to change your relationship with reading. Know that doing so will have a positive impact on your child’s relationship with reading. Audiobooks are a great way to reconnect with books if don’t have a good connection yourself. Children’s books are another great way to reconnect with books. They are shorter and faster to read than many adult books, and they serve two purposes. They allow us to engage as readers and they also give us a direct window into books that our kids might enjoy.