It is no secret that the power that reading can provide is fundamental at opening doors to wonderful aspects such as adventure, mystery, drama, empathy and most importantly, learning. Without the ability to read, life can be a very terrifying experience to those unable to make out a word on a door sign, advertisement, or job application and this list goes on.
For some lucky parents, children take to reading as a spark from a match would to a bundle of kindling. Once they have learned the concept of spelling and sounding words there is no stopping them which, as an educator, is a true joy to witness. For other children, the idea of reading, spelling and sounding words can be a daunting experience and if they manage to grasp a rudimentary skill in this area of their learning, one finds that the joy of reading a book is not kept high on their list of activities to do during their free time. Add the highly influential power of today's video games and computer technology in addition to Social Media and the joy of reading takes a very far seat in the back of the bus. Yet, as parents, and those of us in the field of education, need to find ways in which we can support these children towards nurturing and guiding to become more proficient readers for their present day satisfaction and more importantly for their future success. Having been in the teaching field for nearly 25 years, it is my belief that a well-rounded, well-read human being will have the potential to reach new heights as he/she grows and develops and their love for reading will continue to blossom and take stronger root as they make new discoveries and appreciate the thoughts and ideas of others they read.
Encouraging children who may not like or choose to read takes perseverance, motivation and enthusiasm with a good deal of love and patience. As parents and educators it is our duty to get children to S.E.A.R.C.H for things to read and in the remainder of this article I will outline what each letter stands for and hopefully it will provide those of you reading this with further insight and support at getting your children to read and enjoy doing so.
S - Safety and Support
For many children who experience difficulties reading words, the fear of ridicule or worse yet, reprimand from an adult, can be a daunting emotion to deal with. More often than not these children will find some way of getting out of reading, '...my tummy hurts. Can I go to the bathroom?' or exhibits a behavioural outburst that can be quite disconcerting. To minimise these negative aspects, provide a safe place where your child can read without fear of ridicule or reprimand. A supportive bit of advice or reassurance when he/she stumbles over a word can also work miracles for some. The likelihood that reading will become a habit will occur when children feel comfortable in doing so.
E - Enrichment and Empowerment
The power of enrichment that reading can provide can be truly wonderful. Share what you are reading with your children. Let them know what interests you have, what authors you enjoy reading and what your favourite books are or were while you were growing up. You may just find that your child may have similar interests and if not, they can see how the reading of different genres and authors helped, in part, to shape the person you are today.
Children can also be empowered by asking them to recommend a book and going out and purchasing it for them. If it's a book they selected, they will be more prone to read it.
A - Availability and Alternatives
Availability and Alternatives of reading resources is absolutely fundamental in encouraging children to read. Newspapers, magazines, even comics can help to boost a child's confidence and interests in reading. Children could also follow along and listen to books on CD or MP3 players. Growing up, one of my favourite stories to read were books from the Fighting Fantasy series. These books did not follow the traditional format of story writing. Broken into paragraphs and interspersed throughout the book, one would read through the story but decide in which direction or what action the character, played by the reader, would select. One would then receive instructions to turn to a particular page in order to learn the result of one's decision. Make the wrong decision or loose a battle and one found oneself starting the story again from the beginning. The drive to solve whatever the mission or mystery the particular book presented kept me going back for more and before I knew it an hour or two would have passed without me even realising!
R - Read to your children
Throughout my teaching career I have not come across a child who did not enjoy listening when a good story was being read to them. As a class teacher I use to dedicate the last 20 minutes on a Friday afternoon where the children did nothing but listen to me read to them. I had pre-wrapped a few books I believed they would enjoy and throughout the year a student would choose one of them, unwrap it and read the title out to the class. This would be the book that I would read through and they would enjoy listening to. This reading session had become such a well-loved time of the week, especially when a scary part of the story was read, that the moment I would state, 'ok time for the end of week reading session,' it was amazing how quickly they would clear their table tops and wait eagerly for me to begin reading to them. No comprehension questions, no homework just simply spending time enjoying the activity of having a story read to them.
It was my intention to show them how enjoyable reading was which would hopefully inspire and motivate them to do the same during their own free time.
C - Choice and Creativity
Choice and Creativity is also key in developing a love for reading. Many times parents who have spoken to me, stating that their son or daughter did not enjoy reading believed that the only way to develop a love for reading was through books and only books. Whilst a very important resource, I had suggested, and still do to this day, that they look for other materials to present to their child. Age appropriate magazines, graphic novels, comic books even recipes on cards are great resources at getting a child to stop and read. Let them initially choose which format they would enjoy reading, their future drive and curiosity will eventually lead them to reading books. I remember a time in my childhood when I had broken my arm, rather severely, which had required me to be put under general anesthetic just so that the doctor could reset the bone. The following day, my parents had presented me with a comic book based on the Norse god, Thor. With my writing hand in the cast, I used my other hand to fumble through the pages. I had been so transfixed with the story that I read it over and over throughout my hospital stay. This later stoked my curiosity to learn more about the various mythological characters that had been written about, which involved a number of visits to both the school and public libraries to borrow...wait for it...books!
H - Hone in on their interests.
When your son/daughter is watching T.V. which programmes grab their interests? When they speak about things to you, other family members or friends, what do they speak about? In becoming aware of these interests, this can help you to choose reading materials that will encourage them to pick up the book or magazine and delve into it. If your son is interested in Racing Cars he isn’t going to readily pick up a book about historical personalities. Present a book of famous race car drivers of this century and that presents a whole new interesting avenue for him to explore.
Raising a child in 2017 is no easy task. It’s a constant drive to ensure that we provide the best that we can for our children and this also involves honing their creativity and imagination through the power that reading can provide. Not always an easy task but worth every effort. Hopefully this article has given you some ideas or thoughts about how you can motivate your son or daughter to S.E.A.R.C.H for something good to read.