What can you do this school year to get your children to read more and read better? First, start by capitalizing on the renewed interest they have for a new school year. New supplies, new friends, and a new teacher can spark even the reluctant learner to listen to some sound advice.
Preach to them: Those who read more know more
There has never been a better time in the history to prove how valuable knowledge and the ability to read and read well are in creating the life you want to live. Sadly, a college degree does not necessarily guarantee one a job anymore, and although it is still an advantage to have one, what matters more is what and how much you know about the workings of your mind and the world around you.
Whether you are reading a textbook or a text message, you are still reading, inferring, judging, making decisions and synthesizing information based largely on what words come across your eyes throughout the day. All day long, you are making sense of the world you see before you. Suffice it to say, the more you read, the more you know. The truth is not only do those who read more know more, but those who read more also achieve more. People who read often understand what they read better and are able to apply that knowledge to a job or a skill. Basically, when reading makes sense, the world around you makes more sense. Plus, good readers are overall good thinkers because they have ‘fix-it’ strategies for when things just don’t make sense. They know when they know something and they recognize when they don’t know (which is even more important). They are consciously competent readers.
Think of it like this, if a musician was trying to improve his skills, he’d play more. He’d watch others who play better than him and he’d be inspired to practice even more. He’d drill himself until he achieved and then he’d progress to harder, more challenging tasks. Once he knows how to play his instrument, he doesn’t have to dwell on the basics, he will just play. Learning to read is much of the same. Once a child really learns to read for the deep effortless activity that it is, he/she is able to navigate the world more efficiently and effectively. This is because the words they read and the world they know really makes sense to them. Artists of all genres, whether it be musicians, actors, writers, painters, magicians, professional athletes or dancers, (an episode of ‘America’s Got Talent’ just flashed before my eyes), all inherently understand the notion that if you know more about your own talent and niche, you are essentially more skilled than someone who knows less. What do you do if you want to know more and be a better reader? You read everyday. You read to someone. You read to yourself. You have deep discussions with yourself and/or with someone about what you are reading. Whether it’s the mischievous ABC’s climbing up the coconut tree in Chicka Chicka Boom Boom or the themes of conformity and identity in “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” by F. Scott Fitzgerald, a discussion is essential. It’s where the learning takes place. Basically, you must teach children to have a conversation about the text *as* they are reading. They must visualize the pictures the words conjure up. They must learn the skills necessary to make the printed word make sense.
Plus, the process of learning and learning how to read needs to be as natural and progressive as learning how to play the guitar. So preach to them, “The more you read, the more you know, the more know, the more you grow. Stay tuned next week for specific strategies children need to read better in my “Teach to them: Those who read better read more.”