Not to brag, but by the time my son was two-years old, he knew all his letters and letter sounds. It’s true. I did everything right in the world of reading, or so I thought. Then kindergarten came around. Yes, the grade where I was about to learn my son was a genius, mainly due to my great parenting and educational background. Instead, he began hating reading. As he put it, “It’s like sticking forks in my eyes.” From then on, the battle continued. He is now a freshman in college and I got a call from him the other day as he sat working on his English assignment, complaining that he had to read FOUR pages, and then write a paragraph. I’m sure he was exaggerating about how much he dreaded doing the chore, but needless to say, just as I warned him, they do make you actually read in college.
Why am I saying that before giving some great parenting tips on how to get your child to love reading? Because, I know that even though we try our best and read up on the latest research, we may still feel like failures. You’re not. But, we are not quitters! We will continue to try to make our children love this language we depend on for communication, and try our best not to let it slip from, How are you doing? to How U B? Where’s the beauty in that?
If you want some great advice about how to get your child engaged in their reading and to get more out of the text, read https://teachmama.com/learning-during-read-alouds-activating-schema/. To sum up this article, what we want to do is start the process of reading before we open the book. I love the suggestion to go out looking for animal prints, and then read a book about animals and their footprints. Get them excited and have them think about what they already know about a subject before even opening the cover.
The article also describes what schema is, which simply put is prior knowledge stored away in the filing cabinets of our brain. When we begin to read, we need to open up that filing cabinet, see what we already have stored away in there, and then add to it while the cabinet is still open. Otherwise, some of that wonderful information gets buried on our desktop in an unorganized and much less useful design.
By opening up the filing cabinet before we begin reading, we also pique our interest about the topic. We realize that it is a bit familiar, and we have a connection to the material. When that happens we become engaged learners which is always the best kind of learner there is.
I also love the idea of teaching social studies with historical fiction novels. Learn about one teacher’s class by checking out this site: https://www.scholastic.com/teachers/articles/teaching-content/why-and-how-i-teach-historical-fiction/. Why do I think this works? As I have stated in other blog posts, I grew up on a dairy farm and our experiences were limited outside of running the farm. Our big vacations involved an overnight stay at my father’s hunting camp, not fit for anyone except men that didn’t mind the fact there may or may not be a mouse in their mattress. At the time, we had three television channels, one of which was French. My world was tiny. When I sat in a social studies class and learned about other countries or even events in our country, there was no filing cabinet drawer to open allowing me to pull out some folder that said, family trip to DC. Instead, I daydreamed through the boring dates and names that had no meaning whatsoever.
There was one way I could have visited those time periods and places that did not exist in my world, and that was through novels. A good historical fiction could have taken me there and made me care. No, I still could not have used past schema to necessarily understand all of the events, but my interests would have been piqued due to human emotion and struggles. We all know them. I could have opened that filing cabinet, and while my brain was alert to the story and characters, a few other facts could have crept in as well. Then, when I heard the necessary boring facts later on, the bit of schema I had built through novel reading could have given me a place to begin working with the new material.
Make it interesting, make it relevant, make it fun! And then forgive yourself if they call you from college years from now and still hate reading.