Monday, April 21, 2014

For the Love of Reading

This is a post I wrote on my homeschool blog about reading.  I had just finished Charlie and the Chocolate Factory with my kids, and they were so excited about it, while I felt differently.  But it wasn't my opinion that mattered, as much as it was their excitement for reading it.  And now I look back on what I have done to turn five children into readers:

For the Love of Reading

When my first child was 6-months old, I read the same board book to him every night.  It was a book about noises.  He became so familiar with it that when he saw the pictures, he would make the sounds and use hand gestures, even though he could not say the words.  He was reading!

I made a habit of reading to him each night, and he looked forward to it.  As he got older, we went to the library once a week and took home a bag full of books.

Start them young
At three, my son was reading independently; and by first-grade, he tested sixth-grade reading level.  I encouraged independent reading every night at bedtime; we called it Quiet Time.  He would choose several library books to read quietly to himself before lights out.

Reading should be fun and enjoyable!

I followed the same formula with my second child, reading to her as a baby every night.  She did not read independently until after five years.  Once I caught her reading a Dick and Jane book aloud to her stuffies; then I encouraged her to read to herself during her own Quiet Time.  She is fourteen now, and sometimes I catch her reading books or on her Nook when she should be doing algebra.  The habit has almost worked against her because all she wants to do is read.

Caught reading again

Now I have three more young ones to train up to be voracious readers.  They are under the age of ten, and all three read independently.  I was so excited when my five- and six-year olds made the final transition, just this year. They are reading on their own.  When they come to words they do not know, we sound them out.  And if they struggle, I tell them what it is.

It is not difficult to teach children to read, and they will when they are ready.  But the most important thing is to surround them with books.  Read to them, read with them, and encourage them to read to you when they are ready. Go to the library often, and bring home tons of books.  Read books over and over again, too.  Make it so that they do not know anything else, that having books around and reading is not a foreign concept. Make it commonplace.  Make it home. Once they know how to read, they can learn just about anything.  And I have not even touched on what reading does for writing, spelling, vocabulary, comprehension, and the imagination.

So, when I read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to my three youngest, I wholeheartedly agreed with this section where Mike Teavee, one of the children with the Golden Ticket, was sucked up by the TV and taken away.  The Oompa Loompas had this advice for parents (a portion of their song about replacing the TV with books):

'All right!' you'll cry.  'All right!' you'll say,
'But if we take the set away,
What shall we do to entertain
Our darling children?  Please explain!'

We'll answer this by asking you,
'What used the darling ones to do?
'How used they keep themselves contented
Before this monster was invented?'

Have you forgotten?  Don't you know?
We'll say it very loud and slow:
THEY...USED...TO...READ!  They'd READ and Read,
AND READ and READ, and then proceed
TO READ some more.  Great Scott!  Gadzooks!
One half their lives was reading books!

The nursery shelves held books galore!
Books cluttered up the nursery floor!
And in the bedroom, by the bed,
More books were waiting to be read!

Such wondrous, fine, fantastic tales
Of dragons, gypsies, queens, and whales
And treasure isles, and distant shores
Where smugglers rowed with muffled oars,

And pirates wearing purple pants,
And sailing ships and elephants,
And cannibals crouching 'round the pot,
Stirring away at something hot.
(It smalls so good, what can it be!
Good gracious, it's Penelope.)

The younger ones had Beatrix Potter
With Mr. Tod, the dirty rotter,
And Squirrel Nutkin, Pigling Bland,
And Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle and -
Just How The Camel Got His Hump
And How The Monkey Lost His Rump,

And Mr. Toad, and bless my soul,
There's Mr. Rat and Mr. Mole -
Oh, books, what books they used to know,
Those children living long ago!

Check out lots of books from the library
If you'd ask me, I'd say that Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is not exactly complex writing, but the storyline is perfect for children.  What's not to love about a kid in a candy factory?  When I read the last word of the last chapter, my six-year old shouted (he's very excitable), "THAT'S THE BEST STORY EVER!"  To me, it wasn't riveting; but to him, it was awesome!  And that's what really matters because it is establishing a foundation for the love of reading.


Anonymous said...

That was worth reading so............I read it more than once. No one had to read it to me because I was reading independently when I was 4. In first grade I sat on a chair in front of row 3 and Sally sat on a chair in front of row 2 because we both were reading different books from the rest of the class. Our reader was 2nd grade and ended the year with a third grade reader. Sally's parents pulled her out of P.S. and sent her to a private school.(father was a doctor.) I became very board because the second grade teach did not know what to do with me. There were no special programs. That's why home school is the greatest.

Sophia said...

Oh, I entirely believe in surrounding children with books, because my bibliophilia was a result of my parents doing just that! (Note: I was, and still am, homeschooled.) My parents were CONSTANTLY reading to me, and I learned to read English before I learned to speak it! (My first spoken language was Ukrainian, but English was my first literary one.) When I was three years old, my father was reading "Winnie the Pooh" to me as a bedtime book, and stumbled over a word. I freaked him out by correcting him, and so my parents found out that I could read. But even then, they still read a lot to me (though of course, I did read independently as well). I think it's important to read to kids even once they can do it themselves, because then they can focus developing critical thinking skills as opposed to just sounding out words. And by reading books to them at a higher level than their own reading level, they learn vocab quicker too.

A spectacular post! Good luck with homeschooling (though I can see you've clearly got most of it under control by now :-D ).

Ruth said...

Thanks, Sophia. Your parents are doing a great job! I suspect your avatar is a picture of you looking at a book when you were young?

And I agree with you that reading aloud to older children is good also. I am reading the Little House series to my kids this year for school. Even my 14-year old likes to sit and listen to me, even though she's read the series a few times herself.

Sophia said...

Haha, actually that avatar is a random photo off the internet... I know I should really get one of myself, but all my baby photos are packed away into boxes and are a huge unorganized mess. One of these days... :-)

Ruth said...

OHHH! Silly me!

Cleo said...

Great post, Ruth, but I was often distracted by your adorable children. We, too, have tons of books all over the place and my daughter is a read-aholic. I just could not imagine living in a house without books.

Ruth said...

Sorry. I couldn't help the pictures of them reading. It fit perfectly w/ my topic.

Your daughter has to be a read-a-holic. Is she blogging, yet? I tried to get mine to manage her own book blog, but she loathes writing; so that ended as soon as it began. Does your daughter like to write, too? I just have not been able to inspire mine to write.

Hamlette (Rachel) said...

That's exactly how my parents raised me, and how I'm raising my 3. My son actually just started his own book report blog (this is mommy combining typing practice with book reports -- sneaky mommy!), and is writing his first story too. But I just realized yesterday I have not been reading aloud to my younger two as much as I should, and have started rectifying that today.

Ruth said...

What a great idea! He's starting his own book blog. And killing two birds with one stone is actually necessary.

I read out loud to my younger ones later and later b/c of my schedule and time with the older ones. It just happened that way.

No matter what age, they seem to still like us to read to them. I once found out my college kid was eavesdropping while I read Farmer Boy to my younger ones.