My daughter is turning into a junkie. A book junkie, that is.
I couldn’t be more pleased. (I’m a junkie too. Hi, my name is Jenn, and I’m addicted to reading.)
Her school has a very strong emphasis on reading. As a second grader, she is expected to read 30 minutes a day, seven days a week, and I’ll admit, there are days that it seems like “too much”, considering after school activities and homework. Ultimately her reading goal is to read 210 minutes a week, and keeping it in perspective, that should be a manageable task.
In the past year that we have been at this school, my daughter has dutifully completed her weekly reading. Note I said “dutifully”. While she was a good reader and didn’t dislike it, the reality was that as a rule follower, for her the priority was more getting the minutes in than reading for reading’s sake. If she couldn’t get in her daily allotted time she stressed, and it took some doing to convince her that since she would never have enough time on a Tuesday with ballet and tap and homework and a reasonable bedtime, it would be ok to read an extra ten minutes here and there to make up for it.
However, in the past few months, I’ve noticed a change. She’s developed a passion for non-fiction books. She’s (thankfully) discovering fiction books that keep her glued to the page and have her running to the next in the series.
Now, when her timer goes off (which we originally needed to make sure we hit those needed minutes), she doesn’t want to finish until she end the page, or the chapter. We find ourselves waiting for her at the table, to get in the car, to brush her teeth, to go to bed.
She confided in me the other night: “Mommy, I used to just read because I had to. I really like to read now.” She admitted that, over the past few months, something “turned on in my brain”.
I know that a big part of it was finding something she was really, truly interested in reading. She is fortunate that, for their weekly minutes, it can be from any book or magazine, and it counts whether they are reading or being read to, which is awesome.
It means that my son and I have been able to read “The Phantom Tollbooth” – a favorite when I was 9 – together. It means that in the next few weeks, she and I will start to read “Caddie Woodlawn” – another favorite from my childhood – together. I’m gleefully making lists of old favorites to share with both kids based on their interests.
And I think this is the key to unlocking a love of reading: Find something that really grabs their interest. Find more stories like it to continue growing that interest.
And important too: Let them know that not every book will resonate with them, and it’s ok to say “I don’t really like this”. Think about books the adult you has picked up and gotten bored with, and tossed to the side – now imagine being 7, or 8 or 9 and still developing skills and struggling through a book you hate. Would that build a love? Would that make you want to improve your ability? Nope.
Another thing: Read to them. Read it WITH them, taking turns reading each page, or have a family book club where you each read separately and then talk about it. Introduce them to books you loved as a kid – and talk to them about the book as you’re reading it. Share it with them, what you loved and what parts they like.
Even if you’re not a reader yourself. (Particularly if you aren’t a reader yourself!)
Just do it. And you might just find a reader on your hands.