Last week, I posted about The Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease. It is a fantastic resource and has TONS of information (that I won’t rewrite here; I just highly recommend you read it) such as: the benefits of reading, statistics, and book recommendations for different ages/stages.
Today, I want to offer up some suggestions of how to foster a successful reading environment. Let me preface…
Max is active. VERY active. I know some people hate the saying “He’s all boy,” but unless you have a child who fits this description it is hard to understand. So, at risk of sounding cliche, Max is all boy. He rarely sits still for longer than a few moments at a time and clearly believes the fastest, most fun way to get anywhere is to run there! Which brings me to my point:
How on earth can I possibly read to this child? He can barely sit down long enough to put shoes on! However, after building up our reading times, much to my enjoyment, he can now sit for extended periods of time reading (his longest was about 45 minutes).
1.) Start Short and Often.
I’ve read to him since he was a baby, but once he was able to move our reading times grew shorter and more sporatic. When I realized reading was not a priority in our days (which I desperately wanted it to be), I just started reading for short periods, multiple times throughout the day. At first it was just a couple pages at a time before he’d scamper off, but the more often I did it (and the longer his attention span grew) the more pages I could read before he’d leave! It wasn’t long before we were reading for half an hour a couple times a day.
2.) Take advantage of a captive audience!
Everyday I read The Jesus Storybook Bible at mealtimes. He has to eat and he has to eat in his seat…this is the perfect opportunity to read a chapter or two. Bath time is another great time to read aloud. We spend some time washing, talking, singing, playing and then, when he is engaged in some game on his own, I spend a few minutes reading. This is usually when I read from a book that I am reading; simply hearing the language, grammar, etc. will continuously foster growth in his own listening, reading, and writing skills, even if the content is beyond his comprehension right now (side note: it is always appropriate content). However, his being engaged in something else while I am reading brings me to my next point…
3.) Read while the child is engaged in other things.
Often, when we begin reading times, Max is still pretty amped up and needs some time to calm down. Instead of forcing him to be ready “right now,” I’ve found the best thing is to let him do a puzzle or sit with his own stack of books and flip randomly through the pages. During this time, I’ll either sit quietly and let him work, talk to him about what he is looking at or begin reading from a longer book that he is fine listening to but wouldn’t be able to sit in my lap for (too many words on one page). After a little while, he’s usually ready to sit with me and read through a solid rotation of his favorites.
4.) Pick appropriate times
I’ve already mentioned I read at mealtime, naptime, bathtime and bedtime. Other than that, I read when Max needs cooldown, rest, comfort and quiet. It is pointless to try to read together when he is energized, so I wait until after we’ve done something active and expelled some energy and then he is usually excited to “go inside for books.”
5.) “Self-Directed” Reading – Make books available.
Having books at a child’s level that they can access in numerous places throughout the home is key. Books are not to be kept out of reach or hidden away! Max is definitely starting to get to the age where he wants to approach books on his own and it is essential he can do this without my help.
I should add, looking back over these suggestions, it seems like I am reading to him constantly (this could be a good or bad thing to some); we do TONS of other stuff throughout the day and I certainly do not read for extended periods of time at every sitting. All this to say, it is amazing how quickly the amount of time reading can add up, 15 minutes here and there makes a huge difference by the end of the day.
It is a joy to know that Max has favorites, knows words and specific pages he wants to turn to, and always wants “One mo…” (although, that is usually trying avoiding bedtime – whatever, I’ll take it)!