If you didn’t read the first entry in this mini-series of two posts, check out my efforts and suggestions in the first five years of raising readers. The biggest piece to clarify is that my focus was not about teaching my girls how to read. (So you won’t see any curriculum or phonic advice here.)
My focus was on nurturing them to enjoy reading.
For those of you who already have read Part 1, are you ready to find out whether those eight suggestions that I made actually produced any children who enjoyed reading? Want to know what our reading situation looks like now, five years later?
Well, you’re in luck! This post has updates on our current situation, what happened with those eight suggestions, at least one confession, and a peek at what I think the next stage might be.
First, an update on the two readers involved in the last post, my two daughters.
Update on My Potential Readers
Potential Reader #1 – Our (now) 10-year-old
You may recall that this constantly moving, rearranging furniture, lover of all oral stories but not so much the written variety, was the one that I thought would be my challenge.
And, for a couple of years, these general shenanigans continued. We read together periodically, we made up more stories, and made so many trips to the library that I lost count. She was progressing well enough and could read, but her interest in reading was relegated to what she had to do, not what she wanted to do.
Then, in first grade, her teacher let her check out a chapter book from their library, and it completely turned her around.
She fell in love with The Secrets of Droon book series by Tony Abbott. It happened so fast and without warning that I was not prepared at all. Between the school library and our public library I think we cobbled together maybe the first dozen in the series.
There are so many books in that series, and it was out-of-print. An aunt and uncle dug around the internet to find various sellers of the rest of the series for a Christmas present, and we were in business.
Since then, she has stayed almost entirely, with few exceptions, in the fantasy genre. I’ve been texting my sister with questions since this was the genre that she loved growing up, and I had no interest in it.
She reads and re-reads books. She reads daily. When she’s not reading fantasy, she is usually reading some form of history book.
Potential Reader #2 – Our (then) 2-year-old
Our youngest daughter, now 7, seemed like an easy fit for reader extraordinaire.
And then she wasn’t.
She still liked for us to read books to her, which we did, but she wasn’t as interested in doing anything with them or exploring them on her own.
So, I took a deep breath, and reminded myself not to force it.
When she was in the 4-5-year-old range we suspected that she was putting words together. Sometimes we’d try to “trick” her into reading a word to us. She insisted that she couldn’t read.
It worked for a bit, and we pretended to believe her. And then it became a game because we would “catch” her with a book in her hand in a corner “reading.” At that point when she claimed that she couldn’t read, we rolled our eyes. But, we let it go.
At some point she admitted that she could read. It wasn’t a lightning bolt, but she no longer tried to hide it.
And so it began.
Picture books to short chapter books to slightly longer chapter books. Most of the books in this list of Chapter Book Series were ones that she read either with us or on her own.
And then a couple weeks ago she declared herself a full-fledged Book Nerd. She had found her book. It was the book that she couldn’t wait to read the rest of the series. She was thrilled to discover that the author had written over 20 books under various sub-headings that connected to the original.
This! This was her moment. I was thrilled for her!
(In case you’re wondering, the book that put her over the top was Warriors: Into the Wild by Erin Hunter. Again, not something I would’ve chosen for myself, but that’s the beauty of raising readers. Discovering new favorites and genres!)
What Worked for Raising Readers?
I won’t reiterate the 8 recommendations I ventured to make five years ago. I will say that I stand by them. Tell stories, make sure they see you reading, don’t force a formula, visit the library, and everything else.
Be clear to yourself about what you are working toward with your kids. If you want them to learn how to read, then be clear about that. That is a different baseline, with potentially different strategies, than what I was aiming for.
If you want to make sure that your children enjoy reading, then that focus will require different, and likely additional, efforts on your end.
A full confession would include that my consistency in making voices and animating texts and creating a reading environment that resembled theater was non-existent. I did make the effort periodically. I do think it is a great way to read with children. It just didn’t happen very often for me. But just because I was terrible with it, doesn’t mean you have to be! Go for it!
And, if you need permission to read more books, definitely don’t neglect that suggestion! I quite often would justify reading a book at infrequent, but wonderful, breaks in the childhood action, by reminding myself that I as modeling what it looked like to choose reading for fun.
Two More Tips for Raising Readers
In addition to the first eight suggestions that I made, two more surfaced in the past five years.
1. Normalize having other adults read to your children.
I have lovely photos of grandparents, aunts, uncles, and friends reading to our girls at various stages. They have shared their favorite books and asked about what favorites the girls have.
If you have readers in your life and they visit with your family, then have some picture books set aside and prompt your little ones to ask them to read it. When they visit, normalize having them read the bedtime story or anytime story. Build special connections around reading.
2. Make reading a reward.
You may have grown up with a strict “lights out” policy at bedtime, but maybe encourage your little readers to get in bed early and then let them read (or look through picture books) until bedtime. Leave a flashlight or have a small night light near their bed.
It’s a fun treat and a great way to relax their brains before falling asleep.
What I Learned about Raising Readers
- Be patient, don’t push. Every child will develop reading skills and interests differently. It can be frustrating to know the potential is there, but rather than creating anxiety about reading, keep it light and encouraging.
- It seems to me that the next step is figuring out how to diversify their reading. For now, our school reading and assignments will expose them to various styles, voices, and experiences. I’ve often found strewing to be helpful for non-fiction reads, but it doesn’t have the same effect with fiction. Looks like this will be the next thing I learn my way through – maybe in five years I’ll have some perspective (hopefully on what works!).
Based on those first two reflections, I think it’s safe to say that this is a journey and not a destination. I won’t wake up one day and affirm that I have two 100%, all-books, all-the-time readers. I’m not sure I would want that.
Rather, I would hope to say that I have been a part of their early journey in such a way that they continue to read and rely on books for a variety of purposes in their lives.