Unwrapping some quotes for you to enjoy
How to encourage kids to read
(by Stacy Lee Kong)
Ages 0 to 2: Exploration Station
“Literacy begins at birth,” says Mack Rogers, executive director of ABC Life Literacy Canada, a charitable organization devoted to improving literacy skills. “Children connect reading and writing with their first words, their first experiences and their first role models. You can’t start too early.”
At this stage, exploration is key, says Ruth Rumack, a literacy expert and the owner of academic support centre Ruth Rumack’s Learning Space in Toronto. “If they want to look at the book upside down, let them look at the book upside down. If they want to chew on it, let them chew on it. If your 15-month-old reaches out to turn the page before you’re finished, that’s OK,” she says. “It can be frustrating for parents who have their minds set on the idea that reading is sitting down and listening, but reading time should be flexible.” To encourage interest, look for high-contrast, black-and-white board books (especially great for younger babies up to six months old) or bright colours and simple illustrations, and tactile elements like fuzzy sections, built-in squeakers or lift-the-flap books for toddlers. “The element of surprise is particularly exciting for this age group,” Rumack says.
What is the right age to read?
Ages 3 to 5: Child’s Play
For preschoolers, it’s all about phonological awareness—the pre-reading skills involving sounds. This is when kids learn about rhyming, blending (joining letter sounds to make a word), alliteration, segmenting (breaking words down into their composite sounds) and manipulating sounds within words—like understanding that swapping m for c turns “mat” into “cat.” These fundamental skills can be hard to grasp, so introducing them through stories and play can keep kids from getting discouraged. Choose books that engage kids with repetition and drama, Rumack says, like Robert Munsch’s Mortimer. Rogers agrees: “We’re naturally musical, so kids really engage with rhythm and song and rhyme. That’s why nursery rhymes and Dr. Seuss work so well.” Making play a part of reading time will also help. Have kids act out parts of the story themselves or with a puppet, or let your kid decide what a character should sound like and then have him do that voice when it’s that character’s turn to speak.
Ages 6 to 10: The Power of Choice
This is when a child’s interests really begin to play a role in their developing literacy skills. Some kids are obsessed with princesses, while others respond to comics and graphic novels. Find reading material—books, apps and kid-friendly websites—that reflect your child’s passions. If she loves baseball, get her reading with websites devoted to player stats or books about the history of the game. You even check out her favourite team’s social posts together—it’s important not to get stuck on the idea of reading only being words on a page. “Reading recipes is reading. Playing board games is reading,” says Rumack. “I’m all for reading in whatever form it comes.”
When to worry
Sometimes, getting kids to read requires some outside help. When Luke entered third grade last September, Ljucovic felt like she had tried everything. Despite reading games, extra tutoring and endless practice, he still wasn’t making progress. But he told her how much he wanted to read and, heartbreakingly, that he felt dumb because he couldn’t. That’s what prompted her to contact an educational therapist, who discovered that a physical problem was getting in his way. Luke’s eyes moved independently, so he couldn’t track words properly.
For some kids, reading reluctance is more than a matter of motivation. If your child is sounding out the same word multiple times on a page without recognizing that it’s the same word, using avoidance techniques (stalling, acting silly, yawning and getting tired quickly, crying or complaining of headaches), can’t retell a story after reading it or relies on memorization, it can indicate a larger problem. Check in with your kid’s teacher, who can give insight into what’s happening in the classroom, and paediatrician, who can schedule hearing and vision tests. “When physical issues have been ruled out and consistent remediation is producing slow results, it’s time to think about testing for a learning disability,” Rumack says. “Testing is also worth considering if your child’s self-esteem is being threatened.”
For Luke, the solution was simple: weekly therapy sessions to retrain his eyes. And they’re helping. “Just in the last four months we’ve caught him reading by himself,” Ljucovic says happily.
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