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Help! My Child’s A Late Reader

By Debra Bell | July 5, 2011 | by Debra Bell, Elementary, Reading

The magic of reading is part brain development and part environment. You can’t do much about the first — that’s a timeline God controls — but you certainly can about the latter.

Kids will learn to read if they invest time in reading. The more they read, the better they will read. Your role is to help them want to do that. Our mistake is in thinking the reading program we choose is the secret ingredient. Not so. Curiosity is. Kids have to want to know what is hidden in those pages to persist in decoding the secret system.

Here are four things you can do to stir up desire:

1.Keep the context of reading pleasurable. We learn more when we are happy and relaxed.  As soon as we experience stress, our cognitive powers decrease.  We lose our ability to take in the full context, and instead, just focus on the threat. Further, emotions triggered in a stressful situation create a powerful memory that will be triggered again when the same context arises. If your child repeatedly finds reading stressful and demoralizing, those negative emotions will come rushing back at the beginning of the reading time and further complicate the process. Summertime, when school is officially out or at a more relaxed pace, is a good time to create a different reading memory for your late reader. Create a reading nook or an outdoor hiding place where books are a part of the setting. Share reading with your child, cozy up together and make reading an expression of your love and affection.

2.Talk about books you love. Readers are raised by readers. My own childhood memories are soaked with not just my mother reading a book, but my grandmother as well. At 80, my mom is still a voracious reader who always has a book to recommend to me and her four granddaughters.  Reading is a central part of our family life, from generation to generation.  Start talking up your own reading habit. Make trips to the library or bookstore part of your family night. When traveling, track down the best used bookstore in town and give everyone a couple of dollars to splurge on books.  Share your finds with each other. If your kids see reading as an adult activity, they will be motivated to want to mimic that.

3.Listen to a recorded book together. Nothing like a professional narrator to bring the characters inside a classic novel to life. It is a mistake to think listening to a book on tape will undermine your child’s desire to learn to read. No, it will exponentially boost that curiosity and desire to know what’s inside other books. You are creating an appetite for books when you pull the world of words into your child’s daily life any which way you can.

4.Become a wordsmith. There are a number of skills that expert readers possess. A rich vocabulary is one of them. But don’t turn this into another dreaded subject. Rather, cultivate familiarity with words — big and small  –through wordplay, Scrabble, crossword puzzles, and dictionary games. Keep big dictionaries and thesauri within reach. Talk about words. Notice when the same word appears in different contexts. Use online resources, such as Word-Origins.com, to track down the fascinating history of words.

Your turn.  What’s working at your house?