ONE Harvard University study rated "home reading environment"as the single most important home factor affecting literacy development in children.
In fact, children who grow up in a good home reading environment are much more likely to be strong readers than children who do not, no matter how much reading is encouraged at school.
A positive home reading environment also helps prevent the summer slide that affects most children. Below are five suggestions to help you create the kind of home environment that will encourage and support reading.
STEP 1: Establish a regular time and place for reading as a family.
Although your family should read daily, they do not have to read at the same time every day or in the same room every time. The times chosen should be convenient for everyone involved, and other things that you and your children want to do should not be sacrificed. The place for reading could be anywhere. It could be at the kitchen table, the sofa, or the balcony, as long as it is comfortable, well-lighted, and free from distractions.
STEP 2: Motivate and encourage your child.
Respond positively to your child's questions, thoughts and ideas. When reading aloud to your child, stop and ask questions about what might happen next, what just happened, or what your child thinks of the events unfolding in the story. Encourage your child to comment about what is being read as you go along. When your child is reading a book on his or her own, ask questions about the story. Ask: Who... What... When...Where... Why... How... Why do you think that... How do you know that... and, What do you think would have happened if...?
STEP 3: Show your children that you value reading.
Your children should see you reading something everyday. It could be a newspaper, magazine, cookbook, novel, or brochure. It is a well documented fact that children imitate adult behavior. If parents are good reading models, the children will get the message that reading is important!
STEP 4: Share the reading experience with your child.
Read to and with your child. This may mean that the two of you share reading time by reading in the same room, sharing the same book and are reading together, or it may mean your child is reading to you, or you are reading to your child. When you are reading the same book as your child, your child is reading to you, or you are taking turns, try asking questions and responding to the questions your child asks.
STEP 5: Provide a variety of reading material.
When selecting books and other reading material be sure to consider your child's interests (sports, hobbies, science fiction, adventure) and reading level. If you are not sure about your child’s reading level ask your child to read a page or a paragraph from his or her book, then count every word that is skipped or stumbled over. If you count five or more such words, the book is too difficult for your child, and you should either replace it or read it aloud.
By establishing a positive home reading environment you will teach your children that reading is a worthwhile and enjoyable activity, help them avoid the summer slide, and become lifelong readers all at the same time.
Elizabeth Hamilton, M.Ed, MA, is a teacher with 22 years of professional experience. You can write to her at successfullearner[at]@yahoo.com with your questions or comments.