By Jackie Saulmon Ramirez | August 12, 2015
If you had to choose only one skill for your child to become proficient in, which skill would you choose?
Discussing life skills recently, I was asked which life skill I thought was most needed by kids. My first reaction was between money management and nutrition. Money is important; creating a budget and long-term plan for how they spend their money could mean success or failure. Then again I thought about nutrition skills; that would include budgeting, shopping, meal planning and preparation. Health is important to long-term health and diet plays an important role in that.
Thinking about my daughters, Chelsey and Katie, I realized that reading skills had served them well so far. In every single class they studied, reading was the primary skill needed to do well: Math, social studies, health, science and so on. Reading also helped them read directions from one place to another, to cook almost any new recipe, write a letter or create a resume. By far, reading is my #1 life-skill choice.
How can parents encourage reading in children?
Read to children when they are very young, even babies. There are some who believe babies in utero hear sounds and enjoy the spoken word so there is no wrong time to begin reading to children.
Be a role model; let children see you reading. Read often and share what you learned during mealtime: Read books, newspapers, magazines, manuals and so on.
Give children books at every opportunity and let friends and relatives know that books are appreciated. Cost should not hinder kids from reading; Yard sales, secondhand shops and library discard sales are a few money-saving ideas. Children owning their own books can raise their self-esteem.
Give Kids what they want to read. Parents may prefer “War and Peace” but giving children materials they want to read and are interested in is a good place to start. As minds blossom, so will their choices in material. Getting kids reading is the goal.
Listen to them summarize material. Younger kids want parents to be as excited about their stories as they are. Ask questions and get their take on the characters and situations and ask ‘what if’ questions.
Set aside time for reading. It is easier to schedule reading than to crunch out a few minutes between school and other activities. Reading can give kids valuable ‘alone time’ to relax, to think and to wonder about the world and their place in it.
Take reading further. When my daughters read “The Cay” by Theodore Taylor, I brought home a coconut, drained the milk for them to try and we cooked with coconut. Doing that with every book might seem daunting but for some stories, it adds a flavor kids will remember for years.
Use technology and e-readers. For those that embrace gadgets, there are tablets, computers and Kindles for reading. There are also many free and paid e-books if you and your child prefer.
Encourage others to join in. Getting a friend to share a book discussion can be fun. Allowing children to explore ideas and values is a great way to broaden friendships.
Make use of the one-seat library. There, I said it. Bathrooms without reading material are very boring places; there’s nothing printed on the paper so bring your own. Having a few interesting magazines can transform that little room with little spurts of reading. Joke and riddle books, comics, magazines, short stories and such are suggested bathroom reading material that can be completed in one sitting. Serious readers tend to lose track of time with novels so a clock or timer should be readily available.
Reading is a lifelong activity and children can begin at any age. No matter what children do when they become adults, reading will support them in their journey. Do you have other suggestions for getting kids to read?
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Copyright © 2014 Jackie Saulmon Ramirez. All Rights Reserved.
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