Having homeschooled from age seven until about fifteen, I can say without reservation that the most important thing I gained during my homeschooling years was a love of reading. And I’m convinced that had I not been homeschooled, I would not possess the enthusiasm for reading that I have now.
Here are some tips based on my personal experiences reading at home:
1. Create a book culture at home.
You’ve heard the age-old saying “charity begins at home”? Actually, any life-long habit is always first established among your closest kin—the people you live and learn with every single day. As such, if you want your children to learn to love reading, they will have to see you reading often, too.
If you have a book collection in storage, take everything out and display your books properly. This sends a message that books are valuable and worthwhile! And when children are surrounded by books, you increase the chances that they’ll want to eventually read them.
2. Start by suggesting books based on movies.
I know, I know. The book is always better. But if your child is already familiar with a character or plot after having seen the movie, her interest will be more greatly piqued. This is especially helpful for children who find reading boring or whose attention span is so short they have trouble getting through a book.
3. Make oral reading a tradition in your household.
For many families, story time ends when children reach age five or six; when they don’t have trouble falling asleep anymore; or when other forms of technology begin to entertain them. First, don’t stop reading aloud! That rich bonding time continues to send the message that reading—in all its forms—is held in high esteem in your home. Keeping that oral tradition alive is also important for further developing reading, writing, and comprehension skills.
And don’t forget to include other oral activities. When I was homeschooled, my parents had us memorize poems and short prose pieces, which we’d recite out loud. This is a great tool for helping young children acquire an ear for good writing, and it gives students of all ages a chance to “marinate” in passages of great literature and poetry.
4. Turn it into a game.
Many schools offer reading incentive programs or competitions in which children earn “points” for reading books. You can set up a similar game yourself. For example, my parents assigned points based on book length. Books that were longer or of greater difficulty earned us more points. Whoever had the most points at the end of the month got to spend a day out with mom and dad for pizza and ice cream. Even better, why not set a “points goal” based on age and reading ability? This way, every child who reaches her personal goal can earn the special treat.
Picking up good reading habits can help your child in other ways too. For example, the verbal section on the SAT was so much easier for me because I’d been an avid reader since I was seven. Reading also helps lengthen attention span and generally improves cognitive skills. Reading and writing often go hand-in-hand, and while reading alone won’t turn your kid into the perfect writer, it will surely go far.
Lesson learned: Never underestimate the power of a good book.
Guest post by freelance writer Mariana Ashley. She can be contacted at mariana.ashley031 @gmail.com.
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