By Elizabeth O’Connell, Lower School Principal
I often hear the following from parents of students in various grades, “My child used to love reading when he/she was little. Now I can’t remember the last time he or she read for fun.” This parent isn’t alone in expressing the concern about his/her child’s diminishing interest in reading as he/she grows older. As a teacher of English Language Arts, I have discovered that the main motivation for avid readers is their love for it! This love, this passion is the main ingredient to having our children become lifelong readers.
The State of Reading Habits and the Digital Age
The latest reports (https://www.commonsensemedia.org/research/children-teens-and-reading) point to steep drops in literary reading and reading for pleasure among fifteen to twenty-four year olds in the United States. In addition, research has shown that there has been a marked decline over the last couple of decades. Recent data (http://mediaroom.scholastic.com/kfrr) shows that reading for fun drops quickly from childhood to teenage years.
There is no doubt that the reading habits of young people in the digital age are changing dramatically. While school age children continue to prefer paper books over digital, the number of children and young adults reading e-books has doubled since 2010. (http://mediaroom.scholastic.com/kfrr) Yet, this digital trend may not be as alarming as research has not yet otherwise proven. Parents, teachers and library media specialists agree that tablets, iPads, Chromebooks and all handheld devices used for reading can engage reluctant and struggling readers who benefit from things like animations, narration and multimedia content.
Keeping Kids Engaged in Reading
Whether your child reads hard or soft cover books or uses a device, there are ways to keep your child engaged and on the road to becoming a lifelong reader.
- Model reading. Let your child see how important reading is by doing it yourself. Choose a popular magazine, newspaper or book. Share what you discover!
- Schedule a time. Select a time to read in the family’s daily routine; everyday if possible.
- Read out loud. Many parents stop reading to their children once they start school. Keep it going! As your youngsters get older, choose long chapter books and poetry. Don't be afraid to read books that are a bit more complex than what your children would read to themselves.
- Visit the library. Check out reading nooks, favorite author corners, teen spaces, makerspaces, and tech time as ways to draw older youth to the library. Check out the audio books; the selection is varied and up-to-date!
- Encourage using audio. Audio books can pass time on long car rides. Listening to stories is a great brain builder.
- Give books as gifts. The gift that may be read and enjoyed again at all ages; it truly is the gift that never stops giving.
- Help your child become an author. Encourage your children to write stories down or record them. Let him/her illustrate the story by drawing, designing online, or cutting out pictures and photos.
- Create spaces to read. Arrange your home to encourage reading. Carve out at least one comfy places to cuddle up to get lost in a book. It has been said that a book is a window to the world.
- Don't give up on paper. There is nothing like holding a cherished book. Reading paper-based books may help us practice deep critical reading.
- Offer choice. Allow your child to choose his/her own reading material. You can certainly introduce your child to new material and expose many types of genre. Young people should have the choice both inside and outside of school to read about the things they are most interested in.
- Avoid reading rules. It’s perfectly fine to read the same books over and over again, skip to the ending or to give up on a story if a child does not like the book midway through. Exposure and carefree attitude will instill a passion for reading, discovery and learning.
Here at the Academy
Here at the Academy, our faculty believes that passion is a critical part for endless reading. Our school library, under the direction of our Library Media Specialist, offers the students a wealth of literary options for all levels of readers. From classic and modern fiction to an array of nonfiction, reference materials and periodicals, students are offered the opportunity to read for fun and leisure as well as to analyze and collaborate on current research. In addition, you will see in the majority of the classrooms colorful reading nooks with plush rugs, pillows and bookcases filled with a variety of reading material. Our teachers know and understand the best way that we can help reluctant, infrequent or struggling readers is to focus on how fun it is. We nurture and instill a love of reading by reading to our students at all levels. I can fondly remember reading mythology excerpts from The Adventures of Ulysses, lines from Caged Bird, a poem by Maya Angelou or even an act from a Shakespearean play. This sparks imagination and a love to hear more. We instill with each lesson that reading is a valuable tool that offers opportunities for interaction, discussion and more reading. As Laura Bush once wrote, “As parents, the most important thing we can do is read to our children early and often. Reading is the path to success in school and life. When children learn to love books, they learn to love learning.” (https://www2.ed.gov/parents/academic/help/reader/reader.pdf)