One of the questions I am asked most frequently by parents of struggling readers is how to make their child love reading. I know that the answer to that comes much earlier than when the child is already struggling learning to read. When children are developing early literacy skills, there is a lot that caregivers can do to help children develop a love of reading. Most importantly, there should be a culture at school and at home that fosters a love of reading and helps develop early literacy skills.
Whether children can read by themselves or not, the best thing that caregivers can do to develop a love of reading and early literacy skills is to read aloud to their children every single day. I would say these read-alouds should continue into upper elementary school and all the way to middle school. There are so many benefits from reading aloud to children. Children get exposed to books that they might be otherwise unable to read independently. For young children, this means listening to books that are much more engaging and interesting than the basic early readers they can read independently.
When children are being read to, they hear and can talk about vocabulary words they don’t know yet, which helps them learn more words and use them correctly. Additionally, when adults are reading aloud to children, they are modeling what fluent readers sound like. They can model the pacing and expression appropriate for reading, as well as the correct pausing at punctuation.
Reading aloud to children has so many benefits for developing early literacy skills. It is also a key factor in fostering a love of reading. One of my favorite moments teaching is reading to my students and seeing how much they are loving the story and then pausing the book and telling them we have to stop because we are out of time and hearing them groan and whine in disappointment. When they beg to keep reading… I usually indulge them. Could there be anything more important than developing a love of reading?!
Displaying Books for Early Literacy Skills and a love of reading
The library or bookshelves where you keep books makes a big difference in fostering a love of reading. Especially when students are developing early literacy skills, we might be tempted to keep books from them that they can’t read yet independently. I disagree with this. If they show interest in a book, they should have access to it! They can get someone to read it to them or with them or they can try to read what they can, even if it’s just the pictures!
I organize my books by favorite authors and genres. This inspires children to love reading a certain series, author, or genre. (I also have books grouped by early literacy skills and reading levels. This helps students feel confident picking a book they can read independently.) Once they know they like one Pete the Cat book they will want to check out more books like it! In the older grades, when I wanted students to start loving a series, I knew they would love, I read them the first book in the series. The next thing I know, those books are flying off the shelves and the librarian is asking me why all my students are requesting the same series! The power of a read-aloud.
I also display my read-alouds and change out the display monthly. This keeps the seasonal books out in front and creates excitement to see what the new books will be. The children always hover over me while I am changing out the books to see the new additions. As soon as I finish, they start grabbing them to start reading them or begging me to read them aloud. Having some mystery about books helps keep students engaged and interested. It helps to continue to develop a love of reading. I know of some families that enjoy wrapping their books and letting the children unwrap their read-aloud like a present. It’s the air of mystery that is so exciting for children.
I love helping my families develop early literacy skills connected to what we are learning in the classroom and fostering a love of reading in their children. I do this with my Book Buddies! Every weekend I send home some of my Book Buddies to a few lucky children. They are always so excited to get the mystery bag. Families know that they can use the bag as much or as little as they want.
Inside the Book Buddy bags are some themed read-alouds, maybe a stuffed animal, and a few activities related to the books. These bags are all grouped to focus on different early literacy skills or other classroom skills we are working on throughout the year. I know my students love these books and activities. I’ve also heard from families that they’ve really appreciated seeing the connection to the learning we are doing in school. They also appreciate how easy the activities are and how engaged their children get while using them. It’s definitely a routine I’ll keep doing year after year!
With these three easy routines, teachers and caregivers can help foster a love of reading while developing important early literacy skills. Helping children love reading doesn’t have to be complicated and all children can love reading with these three routines. Which routine are you excited to try this year?
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