We all want our children to be good readers. We want them to love books! A child who loves to read has a huge advantage in life.
But there is one common mistake we make that can quickly turn your child off to reading. That mistake, pushing them to read harder and harder books.
I see this all of the time in bookstores and at the library. A mom is standing with her 8-10 year old child and the child has picked a book. The mom looks at it and says, “No, this is too easy for you, go pick another one.” Or the parent picks a book and shows it to the child who says, “No, there are too many words on the page.” Sound familiar???
It seems obvious that if we want our children to get better at reading, we should push them a bit to read harder and harder books. Let me explain why this backfires.
In order for your child to enjoy reading, they have to be able to follow the story. I’m hoping you have all had the experience of becoming lost in a book. The world around you fades away, and you are living in the story. This is a wonderful experience, and it’s addicting, in a good way. If we want our children to get addicted to reading they need to have this experience.
Now imagine yourself reading that fabulous book but every few words you have to stop and struggle to sound out a word. With determination you make it through the page, but because you have been reading in stops and starts, you could never really enter into the flow of the story. Your enjoyment, no matter how fabulous the book was, would be limited. More than likely, your comprehension would be less than perfect as well.
I’m hoping you are seeing the problem. If a child is always pushed to read at the top level of his ability, he will never be free to enjoy the book. The result is that your child will not see reading as enjoyable but as work. For some kids, if they are constantly pushed, they will begin to feel frustration every time they pick up a book, this frustration can quickly turn into statements such as: “I’m not a good reader.” “I hate reading.” or “I’m stupid.”
So, what can we do to insure this doesn’t happen. We let our child read books that are too easy, lots of books that are too easy. For a couple of years, we let them read books that are too easy.
The idea is to let them practice, practice, practice until reading is as effortless as breathing. When they no longer need to think about reading, but can concentrate on the story, they discover the wonder of books.
Another reason to have children read lots and lots of too easy books, is that it is estimated that a high percentage of our written language consists of the same 1,000-2,000 words used over and over. Once your child masters those words, they are well on their way to becoming accomplished readers. Not surprisingly, those are the words most commonly used in children’s books.
So, if your child reads tons of too easy books they will solidify their skills and build a strong foundation to branch out to harder books. But laying this foundation takes time and patience.
We’ll close this topic with one more point. There are some fantastic books for kids these days, really wonderful books. However, we can ruin an awesome book by giving it to a child who isn’t ready to soon. The whole experience can sour a child on an author or an entire genre of literature, when it wasn’t that the book wasn’t great, it’s that we introduced the story before the child had the skills to read it easily. It’s better to wait.
Too often we make childhood, and reading, a race. In that race, your child is the loser. The best way to raise a reader is to instill a love of books in them. We want to nurture that love, so when a book is too difficult, read it to them, or save it for later. First and foremost, don’t kill their love of books. To many kids have been turned off to books because reading was always work, they were never allowed the luxury of resting at a comfortable reading level for a time and just enjoying the experience. In those years from 2nd to 5th grade, follow your child’s lead.
I hope I’ve convinced you to let your child read lots and lots of books, for years and years, that are too easy.
Is there a mistake you have made, that made you a better educator? Let us know in the comments so we can learn from one another!
Here are the other posts in this series.