Archives for August 5, 2011

Readers Don’t Just Happen

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I gave my older son a project the other day. “Elijah, please pull out all the books you read this year, categorize them and then take photos or a video to show what you have read.”

This activity was one of his portfolio requirements for ending grade 2. It took him about an hour to organize everything and when I came into the room I was presently surprised. He had grouped his books by novels, chapter books, encyclopedias, general knowledge books, bible and character stories, short stories, magazines, origami, and he had a miscellaneous section.

Elijah has become such an avid reader. It has been great for me because he is more independent with his homeschooling.

God has blessed him with an amazing capacity to read and comprehend easily but I would also like to share how I encouraged him to love reading. First, I exposed him to literature early. I would read my Bible aloud while breastfeeding. This helped me have my quiet time, too! And, I believed in the power of God’s word to speak to the heart of Elijah — even if he was a wee little thing and asleep while I was reading.

Hebrews 4:12
For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

At 4 months I started reading children’s storybooks to him and I would interact with him by asking questions and identifying the answers as I read.

Instead of buying him alot of toys I was on the look out for good books. When he was a year old I introduced him to Sing, Spell, Read and Write (SSRW). He did not do the workbooks but we listened to the music together to learn the phonetic sounds of the letters. As much as possible he was not watching tv. In fact we did not have cable for a while so that helped alot.

I also read to him frequently – picture books, short stories, classics, nursery rhymes, bible stories, etc. By the age of five he had heard all of C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia. He got me to read through all of them in six months. My mouth would get so dry reading aloud and I would sometimes fall asleep. He was so cute. When he noticed me start to clear my throat, he would say, “I’ll get you water, mom!” very energetically and run to the kitchen and back.

I used the SSRW program faithfully as well and it got him reading phonetically and with comprehension by 3. As soon as he got it, he just took off. He would read everything he could, even manuals! As we stuck to SSRW his reading ability improved.

When I would take him to the bookstore, I would let him pick out a book or two as a reward for good behavior or working hard.  And I would get books that targeted his interests — from dinosaurs to the solar system to bugs to airplanes. This kept him interested in reading and it also motivated him to excel in reading (so that he could read about everything that he fancied). In fact, I told him (as I have told my other kids), that “there is a door of knowledge that can only be opened with a special key and that key is reading. Once you learn to read well, you can unlock the door of knowledge, behind which is an amazing world where you can learn about anything you want to. I will not always be able to answer all your questions, but if you learn to read, you can answer those questions for yourself.” Maybe in another post I can actually write about a story I made up about the three doors — knowledge, understanding and wisdom (these three concepts were borrowed from Classical homeschooling). I have used this story to inspire my kids to read.

As Elijah’s reading ability continued to improve, he moved on to reading chapter books and an adult bible. He began reading an NIV Adventure Bible in January of this year and in six months he read Genesis to Kings. He turned 8 this year and hopes to finish reading through the Bible, too. 🙂

Last year he became interested in Hardy Boys books so I continue to buy him those. He is also reading a series of books called Left Behind.

In summary, if you want your child to love reading consider the following: have the right environment — one that is literature rich with a variety of reading materials made accessible to your children, read to them daily and dialogue about what you read, value books and literature, model a reader’s lifestyle, teach your child to read phonetically and with comprehension, and cut out competing activities like tv which make them disinterested in reading.

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Here is a picture of our kids’ reading nook at home. This holds a majority of their books but it’s still not big enough for everything so I had to give a way a big pile of books the other day. Edric and I created this space to make reading more an adventure because the kids have a to climb steps to get to these shelves.