By Verna F. Douglass
Teachers talk a lot about what they can do to help and encourage students to become great readers but often overlook a valuable resource –students’ parents. Here are a few ideas I have shared with my students’ parents to help them be more involved in helping their children learn not only how to read but also learn to enjoy reading. First, I tell parents to read, read, and read some more to their children. I don’t believe parents and teachers can read too many stories or books to children. I tell parents to read with feeling and enthusiasm.
When sharing a book or story with their children, parents should ask their children questions about the book or story: What did you like about the book or story? What was your favorite part or your favorite character? What didn’t you like about the book, story or character(s)? How would you change the book or story? Did the character(s) change? Also, parents should talk about how the pictures or illustrations go with stories, have their children write or tell their own endings to the stories, and/ or have them draw their own pictures to go with stories.
Here are ways for parents to encourage their children to love reading.
- Make up stories with your children.
- Tell them stories about yourself as a child and about your extended families.
- Parents who do not read English should tell the stories based on the pictures, have their children tell them stories, or get “read aloud” stories that come with tapes or CDs.
- Give books as gifts to your children.
- Make a game of finding certain words in a story or letters in their name in any book or story.
- Play games as you travel that involve reading signs and menus, etc.
- Make reading charts that show who reads the most books over a designated period of time.
- Let your children see you reading for enjoyment.
- Praise your children for their efforts in reading
For more reading tips, teachers should encourage parents to ask them and other of their children’s teachers (or media specialists) for suggestions. Teachers who know the strengths of individual children will share ideas with parents for helping their children improve reading skills and instill the joy for reading that will last a lifetime.
Verna Douglass is a longtime member and leader of the Union-Monroe Reading Council. She teaches prekindergarten full time and teaches a variety of courses at a local community college.