By Wendy White
January marks not only the beginning of the Julian calendar—but the first month of 2021 that commemorates a literacy holiday! Saturday, January 23, 2021 is National Reading Day, a day aimed at encouraging children to develop a love of reading. Literacy skills play a key role in ensuring long-term academic and professional success, but reading is also an activity that can be enjoyed for a lifetime. So how can you instill an interest in reading in your child?
Read Better Be Better (RBBB), a Phoenix-based nonprofit whose mission is to help children improve their literacy skills and become better learners, has developed easy-to-implement curriculum that nurtures reading comprehension skills in fun and engaging ways. Try these strategies when reading with your child and turn every day into a celebration of reading:
Set aside time—15 to 30 minutes is best—to dedicate to reading with your child in a quiet environment in order to give your child your full attention. Have a pencil and sticky notes at the ready. Let your child choose what they want to read—by choosing their own book, Readers will be more likely to put forth their best effort and enjoy it! Before jumping in, ask them why they choose the book or what they think might happen.
Read the story aloud to your child! This will stimulate regions of their brain that improve vocabulary, comprehension, language fluency, and focus. It’s especially important to read clearly and deliberately to show your child how to phrase sentences. Make the story come alive by reading with enthusiasm and differentiating between the characters’ voices.
At the end of the story, have a brief conversation with your child and ask them one or more of the following questions: What did they like or not like about the story? How did the story make them feel and why? Was the story what they expected—if so or if not, explain why? What was the story about?
Say it! Scribble it! Stick it!
Read the story again, either by you, your child, or both of you. As the story is read, take turns with your child writing down any thoughts, questions, or insights about the story on sticky notes. These insights can be about how the story makes each of you feel, if the characters remind either of you of someone, if the story sparks questions, or anything else that comes to mind. Share your sticky notes with each other by reading the notes aloud and then placing the notes onto the pages of the book that correspond with your thoughts.
Recognizing your child’s efforts is crucial to improving their confidence and enjoyment of reading. End each reading time with your child by providing them with at least two points of positive feedback that acknowledges, for example, their engagement, their attitude, or their understanding of the story. Be specific!
- “I had such a fun time sharing this book with you and am proud of how you learned the words ‘inhabited,’ ‘endeavor,’ and rumpled.’”
- “I appreciate you opening up and telling me that the story taught you that you can become friends with anyone if you try.”
- “I was impressed with the questions you asked about whales, like how long they live and what they eat.”
RBBB is now offering their RBBB At Home program to any family in Arizona for free! In addition to sharing in-depth curriculum guide that further describes the steps above in English and Spanish, RBBB will provide participating families with a Literacy Kit containing a book, sticky notes, and a pencil and sharpener; access to training videos and live webinars; and weekly check-ins with a Program Coach to help caregivers implement successful programming in the home.
A mother of two students in the program noted, “Participating in this program with her brother and reading a higher-level book that she had never read before boosted her confidence and increased her vocabulary. It was beautiful to see Ethen become more patient with Grace and light up when he had the chance to tell her what a word meant or ask her questions to enhance her understanding. Overall, it was a great experience that they will always remember.”
When asked about their experience in the RBBB At Home program, Quentin, a 3rd grade Reader said, “I am a better reader now. I am reading faster and understanding more,” while Kiera, a middle school Leader said, “I am nicer to my brothers, as well the other people around me. I am reading a lot more like in class and at home.”
Working with a reading partner, 2nd – 4th grade students will spend 12 sessions of 30 minutes each reading and learning, with all materials provided for free. If you’d like to learn more or sign up, please visit https://www.readbetterbebetter.org/our-program/. If you have further questions or concerns, please contact District Leader Hannah Beard at [email protected].
For more information about RBBB, visit readbetterbebetter.org, @readbetteraz on Instagram and Twitter, @ReadBetterBeBetter on Facebook and YouTube, or contact [email protected] Also read: Reading Struggles
Wendy White is a writer, editor, and education advocate for Read Better Be Better. She has two grown sons, with whom she spent many happy hours reading while they were growing up, including reading Where the Wild Things Are approximately 2,541 times.