Written by: Julie Provencher
As we know, reading is closely related to academic success, but it’s not always easy to include reading in our daily routine. Some family schedules are completely packed, some parents share custody… and sometimes, kids simply don’t have an interest in reading. So who can help? Is reading strictly the parents’ responsibility, or could relatives and friends also lend a hand? Of course, your children’s teachers have their part to play, but is there anyone else?
Let me introduce my reading allies. These who people that are part of my children’s social environment and influence their lives. Being a parent doesn’t mean you have to do everything alone; being a parent is the ability to build a system for your children on which they can rely. You probably have some of these people around you in your community; don’t hesitate to ask for help!
Your role as a parent includes providing your children with a reading area and reading material, whether this means new, used or borrowed books. You can also go for books in an electronic format; it doesn’t really matter. What’s important is that your kids have a number of opportunities to read throughout the day.
Are their reading enthusiasts among your relatives? They would probably love to suggest, lend, or even offer books as gifts. When grandma babysits the kids for a weekend, do they have access to books? Get your relatives involved, they can easily promote reading though small actions or encouragements. My eldest’s godmother once sent a book by mail; all you need is a little imagination.
Are their kids in the neighbourhood who are the same age as yours? Fantastic! Why start a weekly book-exchange club? This way, your children will have a source of new books to read at no cost!
Another good idea is to visit the yard sales in your neighbourhood, where $5 can go a long way! My children love to look for THE book to read before bedtime that night.
How can a baby who can’t read be an ally? By being a pupil to your eldest. Reading to a baby brother or sister can encourage your children to develop a sense of responsibility and become more independent. They are responsible for story time and they put what they already know into practice. It’s their turn to show what they are capable of, to turn the pages, to give the characters different voices and point things out in the illustrations. In addition to initiating baby to literacy, your eldest is getting some good practice time. A great writer once said: “To teach is to learn twice1.” By reading to a younger sibling, cousin or neighbour, children become role models, which can make them feel useful and proud, thus building their self-esteem and increasing their motivation to read.
You can also encourage your child to read to the family pet! Research has found that children gain confidence when reading to their pet because it doesn’t judge; it only listens.
One of the many questions you should ask when choosing a daycare is: “Do you have story time every day?” Think about how many stories your child will hear years before starting school. If you pick a daycare where reading is prioritized, this could mean hundreds of stories! So much reading can only have a positive effect on the development of literacy skills. And in addition to expanding their vocabulary, it will also stimulate their creativity and curiosity.
What are kids reading these days? We parents aren’t always up-to-date with the latest trends or releases, but kids certainly are. Don’t be afraid to chat with your child’s friends to ask what’s popular these days. You can also use your social networks to ask around for suggestions. You never know… all it takes is one book to fall in love with reading!
Last but certainly not least, your local librarian is a wonderful resource. He or she probably know dozens or even hundreds of age-appropriate books for your children and can definitely make some great suggestions.
In the end, we’re not alone. Find your allies and let them help!
1 Joseph Joubert