My oldest son is a great reader thru and thru. Reading is one of his preferred activities and when we are home (or in the car), you will most likely find him lost in a book. I always say that once you have a good reader, the hard work is done. The world is theirs to explore.
However, many kids struggle to become readers and usually schools are of little help. Fancy programs are developed to try to improve reading and raise test scores. While these are (mostly)done with good intentions, they usually fail miserably. They do not look to the obvious–What can we learn from a great reader?
We have so much to learn from kids who LOVE to read. I did a little detective work on my son and also thought about the myriad of students I have had over the years. I found 6 basic qualities, which I believe can apply to all great readers.
The traits of GREAT readers include:
- They LOVE to read and see reading as a preferred pastime.
- They get immersed in stories.
- They can tell you their favorite authors or series.
- They read everywhere–in the car, on the bus, at home, in the bathroom.
- They read a variety or materials-fiction and non-fiction books, magazines, etc.
- They identify themselves as readers.
Now lets examine each trait and see how you might help to foster each of these in a struggling reader or even ramp up an already decent reader.
Great readers LOVE to read and see reading as a preferred pastime. To get to be a reader, kids have to learn that reading is fun. They must enjoy what they are reading and so they must be free to choose their own reading material. You may cringe at their choices a bit, but let them discover what they enjoy. A trip to the library to just peruse is a great idea. Used book stores or thrift stores also offer a huge variety of books –and are cheap to boot.
Great readers get immersed in stories. Who doesn’t love a good story? Readers love to read for the story-they get immersed in the plot, the characters, and read to find out what happens next. Start by listening to stories–check out audio books from the library or download them onto your computer. Make it a habit, listen in the car, on Saturday mornings, during road trips. Read aloud to your kids- a lot. Keep reading aloud until they will not sit and listen, which is probably when they leave for college.
But listening is not reading, you say. Listening to books can be a great way to get kids immersed in story and a way to experience the sheer joy of escaping into a good book. They can listen to a book that is above their reading level, giving them access to all sorts of new vocabulary. Once they love stories, they will want more and reading is a great way to get more.
Great readers can tell you their favorite authors or series. Once kids find an author they enjoy, it is easy to get hooked. Look for authors with multiple books and kids can work their way thru them all. Some fantastic, prolific authors we love are Roald Dahl, Shel Silverstein, Oliver Jeffers, Mo Willems, Mem Fox, Kate DiCamillo, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Bill Peet, Beverly Cleary, Eric Carle, Stan and Jan Berenstain to name just a few.
Great readers read everywhere. Great readers always have a book with them or within feet of them. Place small baskets of books in nooks and crannies around the house-in the living room, family room, bedrooms, bathrooms. Books should find their way into nearly every room in the house. We have books in the car, in backpacks, out on the coffee table. We read in bed, on the sofa together. I often read aloud during dinner or really whenever the chance presents itself.
Great readers read a variety of materials on a variety of subjects. Great readers like to delve into not just fiction books, but magazines and non-fiction books, as well. Strive to have a variety of reading materials available to your child. Look for high interest non fiction books. Start collecting books on a certain theme, like trains or bugs. Subscribe to a monthly kids magazine like Highlights or Spider.
Great readers identify themselves as readers. This is where modeling can come in very handy. Let kids see you as a reader. READ books around them. Express your love of reading, take them to the library with YOU. Spend time together as a family in a book store. Once kids see reading as a big part of their lives, they will undoubtedly identify themselves as readers, too.
If you have a struggling or emerging reader at home, never fear–pick one or two of these areas to concentrate on and get started. Even small steps can have a huge impact. I’d love to hear about your reading journey. Who are your kids’ favorite authors?