Whether your child is a voracious reader who gobbles up every book in the house or one who only reads when it is assigned for homework, helping your kids choose books can be tricky. You want to inspire the reluctant reader to find their love of books and you want to be careful that your advanced reader isn’t leaping so far ahead that she is reading content inappropriate for her age.
What happens when our advanced readers have an interest in a new book that is written for older children? They are capable of reading it, but should they? Don’t make the mistake of confusing intelligence for maturity.
A few pointers:
• Determine their reading level. Don’t worry about a formal assessment; at Morgan Park Academy, we determine reading level by having a child read a few passages from challenging books. Your advanced reader, like any young reader, should be reading books that are challenging but not frustrating.
• Do your homework. Research the book or even read it yourself. What a great excuse for a quick read and to have a connection with your child and their interests! There are also many resources that review children’s books and other media for kids. I like Common Sense Media.
• Talk about it. Discussing what they are reading serves two purposes. First, you can walk them through any content that may need clarification. Second, retelling builds a child’s skills in summarizing and comprehension.
Now you may be reading this and wishing you had these problems with your more reluctant reader. But if your child tends not to read unless the teacher assigns it, this is in no way a measure of intelligence. A love of reading is not innate; it often needs cultivating. Some children just need some help getting into a book or developing the habit of reading for pleasure.
A few tips for these children:
• Encourage them. Do not make them feel badly about not reading. Shame is never an effective motivator.
• Let them pick. Don’t get so hung up on the book. Graphic novels, comic books, and picture books are all BOOKS. Let them choose a picture book even if you think they are too old. I still love picture books, so why wouldn’t they? The love of books is what you want to see.
• Don’t push them to read outside of their comfort level. It is not a race; they need not read chapter books at age five. You will lose their interest and frustrate them.
• Continue to read to them and with them. This should never stop. As they become more interested in reading on their own, sit next to them and read your own book.
• Let them see you reading. They can learn to love reading simply by seeing you making time for it.
• Help them form a book club. Encourage them to get friends involved and come up with creative discussion ideas and activities.
What are your favorite tips for encouraging and developing young readers?
By Annie Melville
Ms. Melville is our Lower School principal.