Whether your child attends public or private school or belongs to a homeschooling family, there are many ways to keep young minds engaged and in love with the wonderful habit of reading. Children at this level (typically 6 – 7 years old) have already spent one to two years learning the alphabet, phonetics and can productively link and comprehend complete sentences, to start discovering meaning within the texts at hand. During this time, comprehension skills should be fine tuned, writing techniques honed and the amazing discovery that is reading must be kept fiery and alive in their minds. At least this is what I expected from my students’ parents.
I say ‘parents’ because we must not only care for and love our children but it is also our indelible duty to model their behavior and inspire their love of learning (especially for our own language) throughout their entire life. Of course, this has to start when they’re young. Now that your grade school student knows how to read and write, use every opportunity to liven their love for reading and broaden their horizons. Here are some practical and easy ways to do it in a daily context.
1. Always read with your child:
Your child’s reading skills are improving steadily and we must ensure that he or she continues on that path. Although children can now read independently, it’s an excellent practice to continue to read aloud with them regularly. As you read, stop to discuss what you’ve read and ask questions about the content. They can be simple comprehension questions, or more complex analysis discussions, depending on their level and engagement at that moment. Don’t ask obvious questions. Make it a challenge to uncover the meaning of the story or article.
2. It’s more fun if you take turns:
It will be substantially more fun if you participate and ‘tag’ each other in the reading process. Alternatively, your child can practice shared reading with a sibling or friend. Turns can be as short as a paragraph or as long as a page. The goal is to keep everyone in the reading circle engaged and make that time together more dynamic. This activity not only helps increase attention, but also builds fluency, which is very important to becoming a strong reader.
3. Add Non-Fiction Books to the mix:
Make sure to incorporate non-fiction books into your child’s reading list, such as books about how plants grow or how machines operate, depending on his or her interests. If your student is interested in dinosaurs and other animals, appoint him the family “animal detective” and have him present a new animal to the family every week.
4. Find the original books:
Kids are often fascinated by the fact that movies were based on literary works, but it’s not uncommon for them to become uninterested when they realize the novel will take much longer to read than to simply watch the movie. If we want to raise avid readers, it is our job to present literary works in a way that is both engaging and challenging. Ask your child to point out the differences between the movie and the book, or to read the book before to compare his or her comprehension of the story. To make it interesting, make sure to ask how they had envisioned characters, spaces, and the outcomes as they were read, and how those contrast with their animated depiction.
5. Word games on the go:
Word games are a great way to help your child appreciate the magic of language, and playing with language can start him or her on the right path toward good writing. Here’s one idea to try with your 2nd grader: It’s a little game called “Word Chain.” Whenever you find yourself out and about (driving in the car, taking the bus, or walking in your neighborhood), ask your child what he of she sees. Beginning with one of his words, try adding another word that starts with the same letter, like “ferocious fire hydrant” or “tiny tree.” The objective is to expand by adding more and more words, like “twenty-two tiny tulip trees.” You’ll not only be making a game out of broadening your child’s vocabulary but also sharpen his or her mind by inspiring improvisation.
6. Bring on the questions:
Encourage your student to ask for help when faced with unknown words, with complex sentences or finding meaning in a story. The more questions, the better. Children are so often praised and rewarded for showing off what they know; we must also remember to praise them for asking about things they don’t. Be patient, and when he or she is ready, surprise him with a dictionary (which can also be used for fun speed games). Show him or her that you also don’t understand all the words you come across and demonstrate how to uncover the meaning of an unfamiliar word.
Even if somewhere down the road, your love for reading has dwindled (or your adult duties have gotten in the way of literary exploration), there are still opportunities to mold formidable readers and excellent students who love reading and writing at any age.
about the author:
Professor Scott Douglas is a retired school teacher and writer, as well as an avid pet lover and musician. After 30 years instilling love for literature in students, Mr. Douglas now spends most of his days with his nose in a book, on nature hikes or strolling with his grandkids (and his 3 four-legged kids).