Encouraging Reading

By: Trisha Knueven
Have you ever ran into the dilemma of having a terrific reader who wants to read easier books?  If so, I have some ideas for you!  I recently read in a nanny newsletter some great ideas to encourage school agers to continue reading and the one that stuck out in my mind is to create a book club among the child’s friends.  What a wonderful idea!  Thank you Nanny Placement’s Newsletter for giving me that tip!  Another thing that I like to do is read aloud playing “follow the leader.”  This is where both of you sit down to read and take turns reading each paragraph or each page.  This is helpful on those more difficult books or where there is a great deal of new vocabulary.  Your reader can pick up on the many ways in which you read (speed, expression) and you can also model sounding out the difficult words with phonics or word family strategies.  I have found this approach to be encouraging as it also focuses on sharing cozy quality time.
I have also tried to think of a way to encourage reading those tough books.  With a quick search of the internet I found some helpful resources.  There are several systems that are used to score a book’s reading level.  Check with your elementary school to find the one that they use.  Here is a website that I found helpful: http://weblink.scsd.us/~liblinks/Reading_Grade-Level_Comparison_Chart.pdf 
This site explains the Fountas & Pinnell (Guided Reading), Basal Level, DRP (Degrees of Reading Power), Reading Recovery, DRA Level and Lexile Level.  You can then use whatever system to find a site with a suitable book list.  For example, I chose Fountas & Pinnell and found a great resource at: http://home.comcast.net/~ngiansante/
Using this list of books I can now allow my charge to select one off the list for our reading incentive program.  During the summer I found out that my charges would love to go to Chuck E Cheese. So, I quickly devised a token system to reward reading for so many pages, chapters, or books.  This worked like a charm!  That became a win-win situation and summer reading was under way.  I may continue another similar system to encourage the reading book club.  One of my struggles is knowing whether or not what was read was actually absorbed.  So, before I give out tokens, I quiz the reader about the plot line.
Also during my book list search I ran into some information that was very helpful.  Not all children enjoy reading at their reading level.  Perhaps they have a high reading interest with a low reading level.  There is a special list of books that are coded with a reading level and interest level.  The website is called “Hi-Lo” which stands for a high interest and a low reading level.  These can be found at: About.com: http://www.monroe.lib.in.us/childrens/booklists/hilobib.html
Why is reading at a child’s grade level so important?  It is a strong indicator of future academic success.  Here’s a website that talks more about this: http://www.k12.wa.us/EarlyLearning/Administrators/DevelopingStrategies/ThirdGradeReadingGoal.pdf
It looks like to me that this is one thing a parent should look for when choosing their child’s school.  Reading success is important!  Also, I know for a fact that most literature found in today’s society is geared towards the 8th grade reading level.  Why?  Because there are so many high school drop outs.  We can count on literate people being able to read at least at this level.  Wouldn’t it be great if that was increased over the next few generations?  Now we have the research to help us map out that change and you now have the knowledge to encourage this change.
Now for a personal blurb.  I have to say that as a young child I hated reading myself.  In early elementary school I had reading practice aloud at home at the end of the kitchen while my mother cooked dinner.  Perhaps it was the location that resonated with me the most.  It was where I was typically punished as well.  In my mind I linked reading aloud as a punishment and was completely turned off to reading.  I certainly did not want to read and found it to be a struggle for many years when I did.  I never read leisurely.  I was an extremely sensitive child too.  It wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized perhaps I was put in lower reading groups because of this struggle.  Reading typical coursework and assignments was a struggle in the middle school and high school years, but nobody knew because I wasn’t a very vocal child either.  I had a great deal of stubborn determination and this kept me going.  I finally started to read for fun just before high school, but the books I read were well below my grade level and I read them so slowly savoring every word.  I tested below my ability level on standardized tests too and could never figure out why.  Perhaps I didn’t read and absorb what I read fast enough on the timed tests.  Having better reading skills early on certainly would have helped.  The reason why I share this is that it is never too late to start helping a child get back on track.  For me my story ends well.  I took college English classes while I was in high school in order to “skip” two years of English.  Those classes were hard though, but somehow I made it through.  I graduated from high school on time with my class.  I also went on to complete a 4 year college degree.  After high school I realized that going to the library and looking for books though the online catalogues can be so much fun!  I now frequent several libraries on a regular basis and encourage every child in my care to read, read, read and have fun doing so.  For those of you who do not know, there is a wonderful online resource through the Cincinnati Public Library.  You do not have to be a Cincinnati resident to utilize their catalogue.  You just need a library card and password.  The catalogue is at: www.cincinnatilibrary.org/
You can search for a specific book, put it on hold, have it transferred automatically from any branch, and pick it up from the closest branch to you.  It is quite an amazing system!  Oh, and just in case you did not know, the library has more than just typical books.  They also have DVDs, videos, music CDs, big over sized books, and books on CD.  Check out a story time or another program at the branch near you.  You can find all of the calendar events under the “Upcoming Events” link on their home page.
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Enjoy reading with your child a make it a fun daily event!

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