You may know me from my latest book, It’s Not Complicated, my classroom libraries or my work in schools as a literacy expert. I’m excited this year to be introducing a brand new library for classrooms -- the Phyllis C. Hunter Classroom Libraries: 2nd Edition for Grades K-5, packed with culturally responsive and relevant books, hand-picked by me.
One thing I know for sure is that reading well will always be necessary. I coined the phrase “Reading is the New Civil Right!” and that skill is more important than ever. These are my top ten ways to encourage reading both at school and at home, especially for those students caught in the achievement gap. Here are numbers 4-1.
I’d love to hear your ideas too. If you have other ways to encourage children to read more, please share in the comments!
#4: Create incentives to read.
Nobody does anything just for the sake of doing it (at least most of the time), which makes creating an incentive program an important part of getting your kid to read. Make it fun, and make the reward something you know your child will enjoy. If that means going to the bowling alley, then that’s the reward that you should give. Make sure that you’re tracking – just like how we use pedometers to track how many steps we've taken in a day – how many minutes they've read. Pay attention to the incentive part: Maybe let them collect pennies or another kind of reward. Find a program if you don’t have one – more and more are becoming available. Scholastic has its Summer Reading Challenge. Even Pizza Hut has one!
#3: Ask kids to read on their own, and then check up on them.
Kids will do things just because you ask them to do it. Every day, they pick up their socks just because you ask them to pick them up, and they take out the garbage just because you ask them. Ask them to read, and then maybe mention that if they’re not reading, you might have a number of other tasks for them to do. They would probably rather read than do the other stuff you have for them to do, so check up on them and let them know that you expect them to read and that you’re going to ask about it. Prod them to tell you stories about what they’ve read, to demonstrate what they’ve learned to do in a do-it-yourself manual, to know how to work the blender, etc. You can ask them to do it just for you.
#2: Read to and with your children.
Your children must see you reading. They have to know that you value reading as an activity and part of life. Even if it's a computer screen, they have to know that you’re reading and not just sending emails, that you’ve read something on it, that you’re reading books and magazines and getting through your list of things to read. They have to see you read. And then re-read with your children. There are all kinds of places where you can find what books are good to read, because not all books are created equal. Some books have cliffhanger chapters where you read one chapter and you close the book and the kid can’t wait until you open the book next.
#1: Give books to kids to read.
Give kids books to read. Don’t expect them to find the books that they should be reading. Give them books as presents on special occasions; take them to the library; bring them to the bookstore to buy something new; borrow books for your kids, or find books for them to read by asking others. Don’t leave it up to them. Make it one of your parenting goals, one of your goals as a teacher, to put books in the hands of kids. If I die tomorrow, I hope they write on my website, and I hope they write on my tombstone, “She tried to put a book in the hands of every child.”
Be sure to check out the two previous posts in this series: