Last week, I talked about two reasons for reading – reading for information and reading for pleasure – and gave tips parents can use to teach kids how to obtain the information they need.
Today, I will talk about the reading for pleasure and how you, the parent, can help your kids make the best of their reading, enjoy it and gain some new skills and knowledge along the way.
Reading for pleasure
Unlike reading for information, reading for pleasure serves the sole purpose of enjoyment. Yet enjoyment is like a door that allows a lot of information and knowledge to come into our mind. Kids who are taught difficult topics in an enjoyable way manage to memorize complex things and know them well when they are surprisingly young.
In my “Garden of Eden” program, enjoyment was an essential ingredient and all learning was done through play. Kids as young as 3-years-old could read, complete 60-piece puzzle (yes, all by themselves), cut with scissors and learn new languages, believing they were playing games all the time. Never underestimate pleasure as a powerful learning vehicle.
Kids who watch their parents read for pleasure will copy them and do the same. If you want your kids to enjoy their reading make sure to be a role model and talk about books as a source of enjoyment.
When reading for pleasure, it is very important for the kid to take ownership over the reading. If you want to promote reading for pleasure, you need to allow your kids to choose their books. In special education, we have a rule that kids always choose the books at the level they can read. Use this rule to assess the level your kids think they are at.
Books intended for reading pleasure follow the same editing rules. The title and the back cover usually give a good indication of the main idea and the style, so kids should be able to tell if a book will be interesting and fun for them to read by looking at it from the outside.
Here are some tips for teaching your kids how to pick a book:
- Play with titles. Give your kids title of books and ask them to tell you what the book is about. Remember, there is no right or wrong, only a boost to their imagination. It can be a dinner game in which every family member gives their own interpretation of the title.
- Teach your kids to read the cover and see if the topic is something that interest them.
- Not surprisingly, many kids pick books based on the cover picture. Yes, there are many wonderful books that do not have a nice cover picture. Over time, the picture will become less important and your kids will put more weight on other factors.
- Show your kids the format inside the books: the size of the text, the density of the pages and the type of pictures (color or black and white, all over the page or just a block). Books start from full page color pictures with few large words and gradually move to chapter books with pages full of text and few pictures.
- When you bring your kids books from the library, make sure to bring books they would choose themselves. If you take the risk of bringing something different, accept it if your kids do not read it.
Some kids like to talk about the books they read. If your kids are like this, make sure to ask. Whatever they prefer, never test your kids on their reading. I have personal proof this is bad practice.
My son Tsoof was 6 years old when we moved to a different state and had to debate which grade to put him in. His Grade 2 report card, a letter from his previous teachers and a psychological assessment of him stated he had exceeded age 9 in his math and reading and would do well in Grade 3. Tsoof’s new homeroom teacher did not like the report at all, so every day, when we went to pick him up, she said he did not understand what he was reading and gave him worksheets with beginning sounds, while at home he was attempting to read Harry Potter.
In a meeting she had with us, the teacher said she had asked Tsoof about his reading and he had been unable to tell her what he had read. She asked us to read every book with him and ask him various comprehension questions. Since we trusted her, we did exactly as she asked. Every book Tsoof read, one of us would read too and would ask him lots of questions. Reading each book took 10 minutes. The “inquisition” took 20…
After a month, our son, who had been reading books for an hour or two a day, started to avoid reading and went hiding in the toilet to read books for enjoyment to avoid the subsequent interrogation. To us, it seemed as if he understood his reading very well, especially since he loved jokes and funny books. We would hear him bursting into laughter in his hiding and he would come back and tell us his new joked with full understanding of the humor (humor requires a high level of understanding).
We realized our investigations to please the teacher were killing Tsoof’s joy of reading. So I bought a booklet of comprehension tests for Grade 3 and told Tsoof, “You need to do one test a day. If you answer 80% of the questions correctly, you understand what you are reading and your teacher can say whatever she wants. If not, your teacher is right and we need to take some steps to improve your understanding”. He was very happy and wanted to do all the tests at once. Within two weeks, he finished the book with an average score of 86% and we stopped the investigations immediately.
It has been almost 8 years since then. Tsoof still reads an hour or two a day. His Grade 9 national test scores were well above the national average, especially in spelling and reading comprehension, although he is 18 months younger than his peers.
Have a set time to go to the library and borrow as many books as you can. I give my kids a bag and tell them to take as many books as they like. At our library, we can borrow 20 books per family member and we use all our 5 cards to take about 100 books nearly every week (and we actually read them).
When your kids are young, have a set time to read with them – bed time stories are a good time to pass the message that reading is important and fun. Show them the words as you read and gradually let them read what they can. As they grow older, alternate – you read one page and your child reads the next.
Added bonuses of reading for fun:
- Time with a parent – attention
- Satisfy curiosity
- Enhance imagination
- Improve problem solving skills
- Improve spelling
- Enhance vocabulary and expression
- Improve awareness of a wide variety of issues, relationships and ideas
- Gain knowledge on specific topics easily
- Develop reading comprehension
As I have said before, enjoyment allows more information to come in. As my psychology mentor said, “If your kids love reading, you have given them the best tool to succeed in life”.
Readers are leaders and leaders are readers
– John Di Lemme