Encouraging Reading Through Selection and Co-Reading
The Age Old Struggle
It seems all parents have repeated one of the most common parental complaints of all time: “I just cannot seem to get my child(ren) to read.” This struggle has been ongoing for generations. Modern parents struggle with competition from electronics and video games, but parents of every era dealt with new technologies that distracted children’s interest from reading.
The simple question — What can we do to help?
Experts tell us that there are many things we can do to help encourage our children to read. One common sense approach that any of us can use is helping our kids select books that they will actually enjoy reading, and then reading those books along with them.
Selections in Reading
Involving kids in the process of picking a good book to read is a great way to excite them about reading. As adults, we prefer to make our own decisions about how we spend our time, and kids are no different. Helping them choose good books gives them ownership in the process, and increases the chances that reading will actually happen and, importantly, be enjoyed.
When picking books out for our kids, or with our kids, the main question should be: “What will they like?” A lot of things can affect which books are attractive for specific kids, but some of the main things that we can keep in mind as parents are — age, gender, interests and related topics, and past books enjoyed. So, it is a fairly basic formula for success: pick out books related to things our kids are interested in and enjoy!
Any book that kids will pick up and read on their own is a good book for them. Some of us want to encourage a certain quality of book for our kids, and that is definitely a good thing, but just getting kids to read is the initial goal. Once our kids learn to enjoy books, then the question of “What is good?” can be addressed.
Shopping for books with your children also gives you an excellent opportunity to gain insight as a parent, give them ownership by letting them select their own books, and turn reading into a bonding experience. When you look through the shelves together, be attentive. Sometimes they will show interest in something that surprises us; this is always a great moment, as we learn about their growing fascinations, and they get to choose the type of books that attract their attention.
Co-Reading: Putting the Horse Back in Front of the Cart
The idea of co-reading is that parents read the same books that their children are asked to read.
When we read the books, several things happen. First, our kids see the importance of reading simply by the effort that we have put forth to be involved. Second, we can point out aspects of the text that will be of particular interest to our kids, giving them encouragement in their own reading. And third, perhaps most importantly, it gives us yet another experience we can share with our children.
A favorite tactic of mine, as a parent, when dealing with children who do not want to break away from a phone or computer to read, is to read their assigned book with them. I do not literally read over their shoulder, but I pick up the book and read it one evening. I can then use my knowledge of the book to encourage their own interest in the book through conversation and our shared experience of reading.
When I buy my kids a book for a holiday or birthday, I always make sure to read the book before giving it as a gift. This sometimes involves a good bit of work on my part (I had to read 11 books before Christmas this past year), but the effort is well worth the reward. Since my kids know I do this, they often cannot wait to get into the books and talk about them with me.
It is always a special moment for me, as a parent, to find myself in a genuinely engaging conversation with my kids about a book we have both read. Hearing their thoughts and excitement never fails to bring a smile to my face and a thrill to my heart.
If we take interest in helping our kids pick out books that they will enjoy, and help encourage them by doing the same reading we ask them to do, the benefit for their development and future will be significant.
Matthew E. Jackson is an author, an avid reader, and the father of 5 children, all active readers themselves. He also works in advertising, teaches humanities, and maintains a blog of book reviews.