Kids are reading at younger and younger ages. We have a little friend who played with literacy apps and taught herself to read before she turned four. When my oldest was four, I felt like I needed to teach him to read. It seemed that all of the other mothers I knew were teaching their kids to read. So I tried doing 100 Easy Lessons with him, and it didn’t go well. I tried reading Bob Books with him, and he said they were dumb. I agreed wholeheartedly. He was completely uninspired to love reading while “learning” the basics of reading. He wanted to read what interested him.
As I searched for other ways to help him learn to read, I discovered that “Children Will Teach Themselves to Read When They are Ready.” After reading many articles like this one, and listening to the Spirit whisper that there were important things that I needed to spend my time teaching my son, I stopped having formal reading lessons with him. These days our formal lessons are role-plays where we practice using good manners, kind words, and coping with strong emotions. Our formal lessons are object lessons that help us understand how our spirits and bodies work together. Our formal lessons are reading stories about Jesus and examples of other kids learning Christlike values and principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
For reading (and other academics), I focus on creating a rich learning environment and inspiring my kids to read. Here are some simple ways I feel like I am inspiring my kids to love reading and build reading skills:
We read together. Oliver DeMille makes the point that we wouldn’t send our little ones to make a lasagna themselves, yet we do invite them to help us make lasagna. It should be the same with reading. I never require my kids to sit and read, but by spending many hours reading with them, they have come to enjoy reading.
I make sure their book selection is inspiring. Does it seem like books are more often used as toys (the kind that get dumped out and left all over the floor) than for stories? When this happens I rotate some of our books into the closet and pull out some they haven’t seen in a while. Then I make a library run, finding books on topics that will interest them. If you can, take your kids with you and let them pick out a few books. I find that my six-year-old knows what books he likes, and my four-year-old needs a little guidance to find books that she will actually like, instead of whatever caught her eye first.
I let them see me reading. I spend as much time as I can reading. It’s hard to make the time, but I think it is the absolute best way to teach our kids to value reading. How can we expect them to love it if we never do it ourselves? Pick up a book you will love and take some time each week to let your kids see you read it. It doesn’t matter what genre, whatever inspires you.
We play literacy games. We look for letters in the car. We play games with letters. We play with flashcards. Sometimes we use literacy apps. I pick a word in an easy-read book for them to work on finding. Sarah offers some great ideas for Teaching Your Child to Read Using any Simple Story!
For me, this works. I need simplicity. Sure, if I found a curriculum, I could have my kids do it and they would learn to read more quickly. But for me, simplicity and focusing on valuable foundational lessons are my priorities right now. And for that, what we are doing is working just fine.
How about you? What’s your experience with helping your kids to love reading?
P.S. I love this post I read on Read-Aloud Revival this week: The Most Important Part of Teaching Kids to Read.