Well-meaning parents and other adults sometimes inadvertently engage in behaviors that develop a negative attitude towards reading in children. As both a teacher and a mom, I’ve witnessed all of these behaviors, enough that I feel compelled to share them. Here goes…
USE READING AS A PUNISHMENT “Forget about going out to play. You can just sit there and read for the next thirty minutes. Maybe next time, you’ll do what you’re told.”
In the moment, this can seem like an ideal consequence. The child is doing something positive and at the same time you are disciplining them. Upon closer inspection, it’s easy to see why this is a bad idea. Experts suggest that it’s vital to make reading a positive experience. Parents are encouraged to cuddle up and read to young children, so they equate reading with pleasure. This behavior has the opposite result. The child will come to equate reading with punishment. Not a good idea!
DON’T LET YOUR CHILD CHOOSE THEIR OWN BOOKS Although it’s great to help kids find books that pique their interest and that are on an appropriate reading level, it is not a good idea to disparage books they enjoy or force them to read books they don’t like. This is a balancing act and it’s important to remember that offering choice goes a long way towards instilling a love of reading.
COMPLAIN, CRITICIZE, SHAME YOUR CHILD’S READING ABILITY It’s hard to believe anyone would do this, but it happens. I’ve sat in parent conferences where mom or dad gets on a roll (right in front of their child) complaining and criticizing. “He reads so slowly, it take him an hour to finish a chapter.” “She gets stuck on half the words she reads.” “When I ask him what he’s read, he can’t tell me a darn thing.” “My wife and I are avid readers, I don’t know what’s wrong with him.” You get the picture. Concerns about a child’s reading must be discussed privately and out of earshot of the child. Naturally, you’ll want to discuss your concerns with teachers or counselors that can help, but I would caution you about discussing it with other parents and outsiders. Kids have radar and it’s easy for them or their friends to get a sense of the conversation. Shaming a child robs his self-confidence and motivation, the cornerstones of overcoming any difficulty.
ROUTINELY QUIZ YOUR CHILD ABOUT WHAT THEY’VE READ Imagine if you were enjoying a great book, but your spouse insisted on asking you lots of questions to make sure you understood what was going on. It sure would take the fun out of a good read for me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for discussions about literature as long as there’s a natural flow to the conversation. But, when parents (or teachers) overdo the low-level questions in a “gotcha” kind of way, it turns kids off. Youngsters who struggle with reading comprehension are especially sensitive to this kind of questioning. It can make them nervous and reinforce the fact that reading is difficult for them. Check in with yourself before you start a barrage of questions. A better way is to throw out a general question, such as, “Are you enjoying your book?” and wait for your child’s response.
DEMONSTRATE A NEGATIVE ATTITUDE TOWARDS READING Perhaps you struggle with reading, hate to read, feel inadequate about reading and don’t mind letting others know. I’ve heard more than one adult say “I don’t read,” in front of their child. Not to be preachy, but attitudes are caught not taught. Children easily pick up their parents’ biases and make them their own. Clearly, voicing your negative attitudes towards reading will color the way your child views it. They may start to believe reading is too difficult, not important or simply not a “cool” thing to do. Even if you struggle with reading, your youngster does not have to. Try your best to let them see you enjoying a magazine or news article, create a print-rich environment in the home, encourage them and let them know that reading will empower them.
Please chime into this conversation and share the things you do to build your child’s confidence as a reader and writer. There are some wonderful books out there that guide parents as they learn to support literacy in the home. Here are a few of my favorites…
READING MAGIC by Mem Fox is a must for parent of little ones. I always include a copy when I give a baby gift.
THE READ-ALOUD FAMILY by Sarah Mackenzie is a treasure. Sarah Mackenzie, a mother of six, offers countless ways to build a love of reading in your children.
HOW TO GET YOUR CHILD TO LOVE READING by Esme Raji Codell – The back cover states, “This book is akin to having one’s own personal children’s librarian.” Not only does she suggest how to to instill a love of reading, but offers a description of many books and authors. A terrific resource for parents.
Good news! I’m happy to announce that Christine Bialczak, author of the blog, Stine Writing, became a following of this blog in April and is the winner of the book Present Not Perfect. If you’re looking for a positive blog that celebrates life with lovely photos, poems and writing ideas, check out Christine’s blog: Stine Writing – www.christinebialczak.com
Allie Cruice, a long-time follower of Nurturing Literacy, won the second giveaway copy of this book .
Congratulations to both winners. Stay tuned for the next give-a-way for followers. Stay well!