Raising Savvy Readers

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Instill a love of reading in your children from the start and watch them flourish!

Before there were video games, iPods, cell phones and even TV, reading was a primary leisure activity. According to Reading is Fundamental (RIF), the nation’s largest non-profit literacy organization, only 45 percent of fourth graders say they read for fun on a daily basis, and those students subsequently score higher on standardized tests. Other studies show that children and teens who love reading have comparatively higher IQs than their non-reading counterparts.

We all know that we are supposed to read to our children, but each developmental stage comes with its own needs and challenges. This handy guide will help you develop a strong structure for reading at home with children of any age.

Ages 0 – 3: Baby Bookworms

From the moment precious infants arrive in the world, they are sponges for language. It is your responsibility to provide them with something to soak in.

Read aloud every day
Baby books featuring rhythmic phrasing and rhymes will soothe your little one as well as introduce him to new words. (Even if he doses off mid-book, he will love the sound of your voice.)

Set a consistent schedule for reading
Establish a time that works within your family’s daily routine. For many kids this happens at bedtime, but other times may work better for you.

Keep books within reach
Although the pages may spend a fair amount of time in his mouth, he will begin to understand the features of a book, including illustrations versus text and how to turn a page.

Show him that you read, too
No one is suggesting you finally pick up War and Peace. But do show your child that reading is valued in your home, even if it has to be in short spurts of time.

Ages 3 – 5: Preschool Power Readers

When it comes to reading, it is important to nurture confidence by providing lots of opportunities to show off what they know.

Encourage their “reading”
After your 9,563rd reading of Go, Dog, Go!, you may notice your budding reader saying the words along with you. You might begin to point to the words as you go.

Stop to ask questions about the story
Offering opportunities for your child to think about the story and talk about it will help to build reading comprehension skills.

Make reading fun
Talk about how much you enjoy reading with your child. Read aloud with expression and humor in your voice.

Browse for books
This age is a perfect time to introduce your child to the public library, used book stores, school surplus events and garage sales. Encourage your child to explore topics of interest and choose books on his own, even if only for the pictures.

Point out words in the world
When you go out and about, talk about the written words you see around you.

Read at least 20 minutes daily
If your family’s schedule is crazy or your child is very active, don’t fear. Reading a book here and there throughout the day has the same benefits as one long stretch.

Ages 5 – 9: School-age Scholars

They are now in school, and their world is turned on its ear. Keep the routines consistent while supporting your children as independent readers.

Support book selections
By this age, kids should be selecting their own books, but you’ll want to monitor the age- and level-appropriateness.

Have them read to you
Letting your child read to you will foster his confidence as a reader, and it will give you insight as to his reading strengths and needs.

Let them read alone, too
Try a family reading time, where everyone is together in the same room and each family member is reading material of his own choosing.

Ages 9 – 12: Independent Intermediates

The exploding independence of preteens may drive parents crazy, but when it comes to reading we need to nourish it.

Ask them about their reading
Ask why he chose it, what he’s learning from it, how he feels reading it and so on.

Keep up the old habits
Show your child that you value literacy through your actions more than your words. It will mean a lot more to them in the long run.

library look-see

There’s no better place to inspire a love of the written word in your child than trips to your local library. The earlier, the better. All Middle Tennessee area libraries offer weekly storytime events for preschoolers, and some have “lap sit” storytimes for babies, tots and their accompanying parents. Others include book club activities for ‘tween and early teen readers. For a list of local libraries and their respective events, click on “Libraries” inside “The Calendar.” Happy reading, and remember, becoming a bookworm is a fabulous thing!

Stephanie Dethlefs is a freelance writer.

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