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Creating an Environment that Encourages a Reader to Read

Right now I'm preaching to the choir because we are in flux and limbo, with all of our things in boxes, living in my sisters home until my husband's last day of work and then we will move into a rental that we have not even found yet! Explaining all of that makes me feel all sorts of overwhelmed, but we are making it through the insanity that is our life right now and my children will survive without our own personal books and nooks. But I cannot stress enough the importance of creating an environment that encourages a reader to read. Thankfully my sister also values a home where literacy is integrated into every nook and cranny. (She is probably tired of her nerdy sister preaching to her and doesn't feel like she has a choice in the matter, haha! But in all seriousness, she is a good sport about it all and does express her thanks for having me in her life, sooooo we'll go with that. Either way I'm thankful she values it, because that means her children do to (see the 7th bullet point) and that our routine won't be interrupted all that much.) With that lengthy intro (sorry) here is the meat of this post:

Every tip I give you today is applicable to home life and to the classroom at any age. And I believe they are equally as important for a teacher as for a parent. The collaboration of teachers and parents are critical for literacy development. If you work together with the same end goal in mind: to create readers who read for pleasure and with the desire to learn on their own, then I have no doubt you'll successfully foster reading as a life-long pursuit.

By the way, this list is not willy-nilly. They are strategies proven and published in educational journals such as this one and in books like, Improving Reading: Strategies, Resources, and Common Core Connections by Jerry L. Johns and Susan Davis Lenski. And that is the tip of the iceburg of my study on this super interesting topic!

So how do we create a culture that encourages a reader to read?

  • Read More! That is the first thing to put on any agenda for the home and classroom. There is no secret formula, there are no one-size-fits-all programs, the #1 secret to improving reading is to read. That means you need to create an environment that encourages that behavior.

  • Let them pick what they want to read! In every study I've read this was always in the top three things children talked about when asked a question similar to, "Why did you enjoy this book?" I picked it from ____ because ____. When they are given the choice, they thrive.

  • Get to know them - their interests, their dislikes, likes, favorites, hobbies, etc. Parents have a front row seat to helping a reader find books related to anything they enjoy. Fill their bedroom library with those books and then create a place where they would comfortably enjoy reading them.

  • Guide them - you want to challenge them and not frustrate them. Stick to the fist rule: if there are more than five words on one page that they cannot understand, pick a different book. Don't discourage them from reading it, just set it aside and let them work up to reading it.

  • Encourage and Support! The most effective form of parenting (and teaching) is an authoritative style with tons of support. You set rules, boundaries, give consequences for disobedience, but through it all you tell them you love them, you're there for them, you'll never leave them even though it's tough, you ask, how can I help?, you tell them you can work through it together, but you don't back down and you stick to your guns. Which is a perfect segue to the next bullet point...

  • Set aside time to read. Stick to this and don't back down. If this is new to you, work up to it. If you want an hour time slot everyday to read, begin with ten minutes and gradually increase your time until that goal is met. I created a "reading marathon" training schedule for this very purpose and if this is something you need help accomplishing alongside your reader, try it!

  • Model it. One of the questions a mother asked me recently was, how do I encourage my kids to read when I don't read myself? Well, you won't. In a recent study I JUST read titled, "What teachers can learn about reading motivation through conversations with children," by Kathryn M. Edmunds and Kathryn L. Bauserman where children were interviewed about their sources of motivation; the most frequent answer was that their "mother had the most influence on their reading choices." (p.419) Isn't that incredible? That's motivation for me right there! Who is the most influential person in a child's life? The one person who is most capable of creating an environment that encourages reading and I truly believe that begins with mom modeling it! So if you are not a reader, your children will most likely be the same. If this thought overwhelms you, contact me. I can help you!

  • Book Talks and Think Alouds. I won't go into a lot of detail about this, but basically you talk about a book without giving the big stuff away - enticing them to read it. And think alouds is the process of reading a book with your reader and stopping to talk about what you're thinking. It is super helpful for them to know that reading the text is an interactive process.

  • Set Goals, write them down and display it in a prominent place as a daily reminder.

  • Reward reading with reading. I love reading studies about reading and writing - the best strategies proven to work over time, what worked, what didn't and then I implement them. One of the most interesting studies on rewards revealed that if you want a child to accomplish a specific behavior you must reward them with items that will encourage that said behavior. For example, giving toys, candy, etc. had little to no effect in comparison to rewarding reading with reading. That is amazing to me. You want a kid to read more? Reward them with "things" that will encourage them to do that! Like staying up past bedtime just to read. Or taking them to a museum that offers more information on a topic they just read in a book. Or recently my little person read about what astronauts eat in space, so we purchased some freeze dried ice cream just to give her first hand experience about what she was reading. There are so many ideas! Put in the work and run with it.

  • Provide access to high quality literature. This should be a no-brainer when writing about an environment that fosters more reading, but you'd be surprised how many people are more worried about a book being destroyed than they are about the child reading it. I am more worried about the child than I am about the book. Kid, you want to read this book 100 times? Awesome, enjoy it until the pages fall out. That doesn't mean you allow a child to ruin a book purposely. If I see a student or one of my children intentionally destroying a book there are immediate consequences for that. But there is a difference between loving it to death and destructive behavior. It's important to learn the difference.

  • The most important question you must ask yourself, why aren't they reading? And this is where educators like me come in, because this is where we have to ask ourselves, Is there a deeper problem contributing to their lack of desire to read? Such as: lack of comprehension or fluency skills and tools, shame, weak vocabulary, word identification issues, etc. etc. When a student isn't reading, or simply does not want to read, I begin asking them questions revolved around what they do when they read, which typically reveals a struggle that they cannot seem to overcome. When that level of frustration happens year after year, no wonder the desire to read isn't there. These are situations where I can help! If that is your case, I want to help you. Reading and writing is my passion and I know I can get an unmotivated reader wanting to read. Just contact me and we can set up a FREE consultation.

So why is reading motivation so important?

Think about it this way: if you try and try and try at something and continue to fail, how hard is it to pick it back up after each failure? It's easy to become discouraged and embarrassed. That is exactly what most unmotivated readers experience every day! They have no desire to read because all reading has done in their lives is make them believe that they are failures. It takes a lot of work and a lot of support to reset those deep rooted, destructive beliefs. It can be done! I've been blessed enough to be part of many people's nonreader to reader journeys. The process is difficult, but the end result is super sweet!


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