Unlocking the Magic of Reading: Cultivating a Love for Books through Fun and Memorable Experiences
BREAKING NEWS: Screen time is at an all-time high! Some of you would skip right past that headline. Others would say, “I knew it! Those darn millennials ruined everything!” Some would immediately have a reflective moment. Regardless of your reaction to the above headline, we must agree that we are living in the digital age. In a time where screens and gadgets dominate children’s attention, fostering a love for reading has become more crucial than ever!
We all know that reading enhances literacy, but it’s important to note that reading also builds confidence, sparks imagination, cultivates empathy, and opens the portal to knowledge which helps us develop our perspective and opinions. As parents, teachers, mentors, and caregivers, one of the most impactful ways to instill this love for reading is by engaging children in fun and memorable reading experiences. Creating these experiences allow us to unlock the magic of reading and pave the way for a lifelong passion for books.
When should I start reading to my child?
Before we discuss how to create these magical experiences, I’d like to quickly answer one of the most frequently asked questions I receive: When should I start reading to my child?
My recommendation is you start reading as soon as the child is conceived. I know it sounds crazy, but hear me out! There are numerous studies and articles that support reading to your baby while in the womb. Many assert that reading to your baby as early as the third trimester is great for bonding and developing your child’s brain–both admirable goals! I’d like to add more practical benefits: practice and habit creation. If you recall, in my previous article, “How to use books to create teachable and memorable moments,” I offered lessons I learned from reading aloud to children. It’s simple: the earlier you start practicing those fundamentals, the more skilled you’ll become. You are truly bringing the story to life for your child from conception to reading age, so bring on the inflection, excitement, energy, and rhythmic stories!
Start early and sustain the habit!
How do I get my child interested in reading?
This is another frequently asked question I received that is usually accompanied by embarrassment, guilt, and a feeling of inadequacy. Allow me to encourage you: There was a time I felt reading was a chore for numerous reasons! I’m sure my parents chuckle at my “anti-reading” stint when they see how involved I’ve become with writing and increasing literacy, but it was a phase. Reading didn’t fit well with my schedule, I didn’t like the books that were chosen for me, and TV was much more entertaining. These may not have been facts, but they were true to me.
Whether your child is revolting like young Olaolu or they’re extremely interested in reading, let’s discuss my ten principles for creating magical reading experiences to increase literacy.
1. The Foundational Principle: Creating magical reading experiences begins with books relationships.
I admit, this is strange. My foundational principle about reading and increasing literacy is not about books. Allow me to explain. My goal when reading to children is not to simply tell them what words are on the page. My goal is to bring the story to life in a way that resonates with the children. It’s about establishing shared moments or connections with the children that will last beyond the story time. If successful, they can and will carry memories and lessons they learn for the rest of their lives.
Using story time as an opportunity to build relationships gives us the flexibility and scalability we need to engage our children at a level that they understand so they continue this habit throughout their lives. What I’m suggesting is you are the star of this magical experience, and the book is your script. Everyone knows that many successful stars tend to ad-lib quite a bit. It’s what makes the show or movie unique and keeps the fans engaged. Be enthusiastic, athirst, and excited for story time! It’s your time to shine and build a lasting relationship.
The 5 P’s (2-6)
2. Priority: Shared reading must be a priority in the home or classroom.
Why would you want to read when you got the television set sitting right in front of you? There’s nothing you can get from a book that you can’t get from a television faster.
Harry Wormwood in Matilda
Ok, I get it Mr. Wormwood. Children can learn a lot from watching TV. In fact, Joan Ganz Cooney and Lloyd Morrissett –founders of Sesame Street–disproved the theory that TV doesn’t require the interaction needed to enhance literacy. However, prioritizing regularly shared reading experiences creates a safe and productive environment where parents, teachers, caregivers, and mentors can help children explore their unique talents, life experiences, and needs. Ultimately, along with increasing literacy, prioritizing shared reading experiences can help the child grow and develop into a more confident individual capable of developing meaningful connections with others.
3. Patience: To accept delay without becoming frustrated.
The flexibility associated with our foundational principle can be a double-edged sword. Since reading provides countless opportunities for learning beyond the words on the page, imaginations can sometimes seem to completely derail what you seek to accomplish during a particular story time. This requires patience. Do your best to gently refocus the child on the topic. It won’t be perfect, and some days will seem more productive than others. Remain consistent and patient. The memorable and teachable moments are worth it.
4. Perspective: Evaluate your motives. Understand the child’s perspective.
Remember your why and the child’s why when patience begins to wear thin. I have to reframe the situation when I feel frustration or impatience creeping in. Most times, my frustration/impatience is driven by this thought: “I know what’s best for you!” Though this may be true, our intentions, motives, and attitude must remain aligned to our goal to increase literacy and memorable experiences. In other words, I may intend to establish a magical reading experience with my children with a great motive, but if their distracted behavior or disruptions cause me to become frustrated or impatient, my attitude is distorting the connection. There are numerous factors that may influence the child’s behavior. Take a deep breath, reframe the situation to account for the child’s perspective, and re-attack from a different angle.
5. Passion: No passion, no magical reading experience.
Books have the power to evoke emotions and create lasting memories. I love seeing children’s reactions when I’m reading. For example, in my book “Billy Dipper’s Time to Shine,” there is a scene where Billy Dipper hits his rock bottom moment. I do my best to sell that moment to children so they can empathize with Billy. Then, I like to pause both for dramatic effect and to encourage children to empathize with the characters and discuss their feelings about the story. Explore themes of friendship, kindness, perseverance, and diversity to foster empathy and understanding. Encourage them to share their favorite parts of the story or relate it to their personal experiences. These emotional connections make reading a deeply personal and enriching experience.
6. Positivity: Maintain a great attitude and remember: Your positive reinforcement goes a long way.
Reading should never feel like a chore or a task. Instead, it should be a delightful adventure that sparks curiosity and captivates young minds. Therefore, you have to be supportive and maintain a positive attitude towards reading. Bring stories to life by using expressive voices, incorporating gestures, and even acting out certain scenes. Encourage children to participate by asking questions, predicting what might happen next, or even creating their own alternate endings. By infusing playfulness and positivity into reading sessions, we create an environment where children eagerly look forward to the next chapter. Moreover, it shows that you support their creativity and opinion, and your positive reinforcement will help build their self-esteem.
The three I’s (7-9)
7. Inspiration: Develop success from failures.
Consistency is key when it comes to cultivating a love for reading. Even so, children may struggle to comprehend, sound words out, or pay attention. Establish a reading routine, whether at bedtime or a designated hour during the day. Make it a special time, free from distractions, where you can fully immerse yourselves in the world of books together. Allow children to choose books that pique their interest and let them take turns reading aloud. Again, some story times may feel more productive than others, but continue to maintain a consistent reading ritual. Your children’s anticipation of the next story time and inspiration to read will overcome any obstacles they previously encountered.
8. Improvisation: “Situational family engagements”
Create teachable moments. Pause during the story to discuss new vocabulary, encourage critical thinking, and ask open-ended questions. Relate the story to real-life experiences or connect it to other subjects like science, history, or art. Integrate activities, such as crafts, games, or cooking, that align with the story’s theme to enhance comprehension and make the experience more memorable.
9. Influence: There are many influences out there. Will you combat them or collaborate with them?
Choose engaging and age-appropriate books. Selecting the right books is key to capturing children’s interest and keeping them engaged. Vibrant illustrations, relatable characters, and captivating storylines can work wonders in capturing their imagination. Explore various genres and introduce diverse authors and cultures to broaden their horizons. Children are constantly observing the world around them and learning. Create a sense of wonder and excitement about the world of books by relating the things they observe to the things that have the greatest influence on their lives.
10. Carpe Diem: Opportunities & moments are prevalent in our daily affairs. Seize the moment!
Reading to children goes far beyond simply teaching them how to read. It creates a bridge to a world of imagination, knowledge, and discovery. Seize every opportunity to infuse fun, teachable moments, and emotional connections into your reading experiences. By doing so, you’ll nurture a lifelong love for books. Let’s embrace the magic of reading and embark on a journey where children’s hearts and minds are forever transformed through the power of words!