How to help my kids read?

Mother reading to a child

PARENTS who love their children provide them with the things they really need.

Obviously, this involves more than simply paying the bills.

Such parents also help their children develop positive values such as good reading habits and goals in life, and they give them plenty of time and loving concern.

So, how can you help your children to have a good reading program or culture?

The Importance of Praise


Wayne and Joanne developed a system to help their children with their school work.

There is an “in” basket in the kitchen where the children put their graded papers on arriving home from school.

Joanne reviews the papers while the children play or do their homework, and at supper the family often discuss them.

The better ones are displayed on the refrigerator and on the kitchen walls, which resemble a cluttered art gallery.

“It is our way of extending praise to the children,” says Joanne, “and they thrive on it.” In the living room, the family has an “out” basket where the finished homework goes before bedtime.

“This way,” explains Joanne, “we don’t have to look for it in the morning when the children are rushing off to school.”

Beatrice, a mother of two girls, also decorates her kitchen with the school work of her children. She says:

I do it because I’m proud of my kids and want them to know it.”

Recognizing the high value of praise, the Dallas, Texas, Independent School District encourages its volunteer tutors to make generous use of encouraging expressions, such as:

Terrific! Much better. Keep it up! Good for you. That’s clever. Exactly right. Very creative. Good thinking. Excellent work. Now you've got it. I appreciate the way you’re trying."

If you are a parent, could you give encouragement more often?

Good reading environment


In addition to praising their children’s efforts, parents who want their children to read cultivate a home environment that is conducive to study.

They get their children interested in reading and learning about the world around them, thus become good readers.

Julie explains:

My parents supported me by putting a fence around my study time. I had a particular place in the house to do my homework, and I was off limits to the rest of the family until it was done. During my study time, I was not required to do chores. Interruptions in my concentration were thereby avoided.”

Mark tells how his parents supported him and his sisters:

They made sure we always had available a dictionary and other books to assist us in our studies. They encouraged us to build personal libraries by letting us buy books we were interested in without having to pay for them out of our allowances.”

Althea, mother of four explains:

We began our reading program with the children when they were about three months old. It was difficult to maintain because, like many women today, I had to work. To make room for it, I had to buy out the time from other activities. The children had over 300 books—nursery rhymes, scientific books, all kinds. They would bring me their favorites to read to them. Sometimes I would skip sections to try to shorten the session, but that didn’t work. The kids always knew the missing part and would remind me by filling it in from memory!”

Johan from Finland says that his parents would read to him 10 to 15 minutes every night before bedtime. “I could pick the story,” Johan explains:

Mom would play the characters in the story. My sister and I got so attached to the arrangement that even when my parents didn’t have the time, we would pick out a book and try it on our own. This helped us develop very good reading habits. It has made our schoolwork easier and widened our world.”

Ravindira from Sri Lanka loved having her father put her to bed because of his reading style. “My favorite bedtime story was How the Camel Got Its Hump." 

Father would thump, pump, laugh, and do everything else during the reading.

That was supposed to put me to sleep, but it only succeeded in keeping me wide awake and wanting more.

He pretended not to know this, but he knew exactly what he was doing.

Later, when I was older, he would let me carry the books back to the library. That made me feel important and further encouraged me to enjoy reading.”

Describing how her father helped her, Susan says:

Dad loved field trips. He would take me everywhere—museums, bird sanctuaries, libraries, to pick wild berries in the woods. Sometimes we would just explore unknown forest areas. We would come home all scratched up, but it was fun. Those trips gave purpose to my school studies.”

Emilo from Puerto Rico recalls:

My mother wanted us to know that we were always learning. When I would come home from school, she would ask, ‘So, what did you learn today?’ If I said, ‘Oh, nothing,’ she would come back with, ‘What do you mean, nothing? You must have learned something.’ She would stay with the questioning until I came up with what I had learned. She did the same thing with my two brothers. She wanted us to know that we were very important to her and that she cared for us. This made us a close-knit family.”

The key to success includes being an attentive, friendly, understanding parent, one who knows the children well and responds to them as individuals.

Remember, what your youngsters really need is personal attention that is demonstrated by loving concern for their welfare.

Nourish in them a thirst for learning, and help them make the gaining of knowledge a pleasurable experience.

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