Monday, March 7, 2011

Encouraging Reading and Writing

I love reading. I love writing. I have loved both for so long that I can't remember ever not loving them. I spent many hours during long hot car trips soaking up Nancy Drew and Charlotte's Web, Ramona, and Pippi, and whatever else I could get my hands on. There were days Mom begged us to go outside because my brother and I had settled in to good books and didn't want to put them down. I wrote my first poem when I was five and only struggled a little with writing in college when I had to write papers on books that I didn't really care much about like Thucydides and Ulysses.

I always imagined that my own kids would also love reading and writing, that it would come naturally, and that the simple act of having good books around for them to read would be sufficient. I actually started collecting children's books long before I had children...during my grad school days I signed up for a Dr. Seuss reading club (made up a kid just for fun) so I had a good set of Dr. Seuss, Berenstain Bears, and other easy readers on my shelf already when my oldest daughter was born. Of course I had never particularly imagined having a child with language delays, motor skill delays, or self-regulation issues, all of which have impacted her interest in and aptitude for reading and writing.

I am by no means an expert in early childhood literacy, but I think we've done a few things right in this area. One really key thing is to keep it fun, because if it's not enjoyable then it loses half of the point, in my opinion. Reading and writing require real effort for my daughter, so if she loses the reward of having fun while she's doing it then in the end it is just work - ugh.

Have good reading materials available - I already mentioned our collection of children's books. We keep these and several kid friendly magazines available on low tables and bookshelves at all times. Often this means I'm picking up books, and stacking them again, but if my kids have been looking at books it is worth the extra effort for me.

Visit your library often - We have a great public library with good programs for our kids. There are story times and craft times, and the children's librarian is so friendly and talented with the kids. We go even when there aren't story times because it's free (unless I'm late returning a book) and it gives us somewhere to go. The kids each pick a book and a video to take home. My oldest has been complaining lately that she doesn't get to go as often, so I think we'll head there some on the weekends soon, too.

Read to them - We read a minimum of one story per kid every night before bed. No matter how late it is. No matter what else has happened that day. They pick the story. Now that my oldest is reading a little on her own we ask her to read at least some part of the story - sometimes a page or two, sometimes every other page, sometimes the whole thing depending on her willingness. Remember it's supposed to be fun.

Think outside the book - There are lots of "environmental" texts available to read. We read signs, receipts, mail, shirts, and grocery lists. Likewise we write notes, lists, names, and menus. Just look around - there's a lot to read and write!

Use the computer - My daughter loves Starfall, a phonics-based reading program with games and art activities. Our school also uses Lexia. She also likes getting on the word processing software and writing cards and notes there. Anything that gets her practicing sounding out words and building sentences is open game in my book.

Be a good example - This is one area that I have no problem modeling for my daughter. I still love a good book, when I have time to read them. It's important to show that reading is not just work, that it can be a fun activity, too.

What ideas do you have for making reading and writing fun?

1 comment:

Janet Ann Collins said...

Great ideas, Kim. I think I'll share the link to your post on my Facebook page, etc.


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