I have said this a hundred times. Practice practice practice. Practice makes you a better reader. In fact, practice makes you a better anything. My pull-up has become a reality because I practice. My husband’s ability to spice up any dish came from his practice of exploring the spice cabinet. My daughter’s new game of Peek-a-Boo came from practicing and learning. Practice and repetition guide our brains to make connections quicker, helping us perform.
Learning to read and taking on more advanced material takes practice. Practice means reading often. While emergent readers read in the classroom daily, we can’t rely on classroom reading to do all the work. Reading NEEDS to take place in the home in order for a child to move up the literacy ladder. I tell my students that reading every night is the most important homework they will ever get.
Sometimes children find reading with adults stressful or difficult, and will do anything to avoid it. Other times adults don’t have the time to spend with a child who needs to read. One way to get around these issues is to have your child read to things or people other than you: a sibling, a friend, a pet, a doll or a stuffed animal.
1) Read to a sibling or younger friend. Both the big child and the little child feel special. The big child feels like a teacher and has been given an adult job to do. The little child enjoys the attention from their sibling/big friend. In the end, both children get something out of this. The big child gets to practice reading and the little child gets read to. Win win.
This morning my daughter and I had a playdate with a friend and her two and a half year old. At one point my friend and I looked over at our girls playing together and her daughter was showing Bean a book. They were having their own little moment with books and it was special and sweet. It made me think about the power and influence children have over each other.
2) Read to a pet. Dogs are used as reading buddies all over the country for a reason: dogs are wonderful listeners and provide unconditional support. Dogs crave human attention and will lay around and listen all day if that means they get some petting out of it or some one-on-one time. Fish are also an ideal audience. Fish can’t run away while being read to, and being around fish tanks is known to calm people down. I know nothing about cats, and am not a cat person, so I have no idea if a cat would enjoy being read to. I once hung out with a cat who got so overstimulated (I really dislike that term) from my petting that it scratched up my arm. You won’t find me reading to a cat any time soon.
3) Read to stuffed animals or dolls. I have had many parents tell me they have walked in on their children teaching a class of stuffed animals. I LOVE this idea. Reading to stuffed animals and dolls is, again, pressure-less. No Cabbage Patch Kid is going to interrupt when your child reads the wrong word. No Mickey Mouse is going to make your child sound out a word they don’t know.
These moments of reading to animals, siblings and pets should all be stress free. If your child wants to make up words, let them. If they want to jump from the back to the front to the back again, let them. This is their moment. They are loving books, having fun practicing, and teaching others….even if it is their labrador.