We welcome Maria Burel from Once Upon a Story blog who is guest posting today!
Once upon a time, in a land where I did not have two small children climbing my legs, I spread my literacy love over classrooms of book-loving, eager-to-learn, 4th and 5th graders. Every day was a mutual celebration of literature, deep discussion, and breakthrough moments of tremendous insight.
What? You’re not buying it?
Okay, the truth is, those students do exist, as do those perfect teaching moments. But classrooms are also filled with students for whom reading is a chore, and from whom discussion must be dragged out with infinite amounts of patience and skill.
Behind many of those students are frustrated parents, parents who don’t understand why their child doesn’t share their love of books, who want a simple plan to turn their child into a reader.
Are you one of those parents? Or maybe you’re a parent of an infant/toddler/preschooler and determined to set your child on the right path, but feeling overwhelmed by the whole “teaching my child to read” process.
Take a deep breath. Chances are, to some degree, you’re already raising a reader. Here (in no particular order) are five ways you can tell:
1. You have children’s books in you’re home…and they’re a mess.
No matter how often you remind them to be gentle, it happens. Books get torn, creased, sticky, shoved in shelves, thrown in baskets, and even, if your child is really young, eaten. Smile. Those books are well-loved.
2. Your child doesn’t read books.
Yes, you read that correctly. Literacy is not limited to just traditional books. Maybe you have an aspiring chef who enjoys cookbooks. Maybe you’re parenting a budding journalist who prefers newspapers or magazines (print or online). Maybe your child dreams of drawing and spends hours with a stack of comics or graphic novels. All are examples of literacy.
3. You talk. A lot.
Maybe it’s about books, maybe it’s not. Pre-readers have not yet developed the decoding skills to “sound out” new words, and are not able to pick up a book of choice and read in the traditional sense. But at this age, their vocabulary is exploding. Building this vocabulary bank will help them in a few years when they do have the decoding skills. So talk. And talk. And talk. About anything and everything. Then once they’re in bed, soak in the silence.
4. You get outside.
Explore. Make connections to books you’re reading together. Discover something new, then find a book that relates. It doesn’t have to be to fancy museums, or extravagant destinations. Visit the playground, or the fire station, or the mall. Whatever piques your child’s interest.
5. They’re reading “junk”
We would all like to imagine our children will enjoy the classics. Award-winning novels and picture books. Books from our youth, or even before, that have an eternal place upon the shelves of children’s literature. And maybe they will. But think back to your childhood. Was there ever a time where you dove into a series and didn’t come up for air until you read every last one? For me, it was The Babysitter’s Club and Sweet Valley. For my husband, it was Goosebumps and The Choose Your Own Adventure Stories. There’s something to be said for connecting with characters and wanting to follow along with them on (predictable) adventures. Your child has been reading the same series for months on end? Let them. They’ve found something that they can relate to in those stories. That’s a huge part of the reading experience.
By no means is this a complete list. The signs that you’re raising a reader appear in the smallest of moments. The most important thing to remember is that in the same way no child looks the same, no two readers appear the same.
So take a deep breath. Relax. You’re doing great.
And so are they.