The Importance of Reading at Home
I am fortunate that both of my daughters absolutely love reading. They look at not having time to read as a punishment, one that’s equivalent to losing their favorite toy.
Maybe this is because my husband and I are both educators, and we’ve been reading to them since I found out I was pregnant. But we also do more with books than just read in a monotone voice.
I believe it is important to teach these habits to parents with young children. This can help build the connection between learning at school and at home, a connection that’s desperately needed. It can also make learning more interesting for students.
Setting Higher Expectations
I created a blog for my kindergarten classroom that is updated biweekly. This blog explains what we are doing in the classroom, and includes details on what we are reading. It also describes the stamina we are building as students read to themselves.
Parents are always amazed that my goal for kindergarten is that students read to themselves for 20 minutes or more. (Yes, this takes a while, since we usually start the year with a whopping two minutes!) Most parents can’t believe their child can sit that long and read.
But setting ambitious goals is not enough. I believe that, in addition, we need to explain to parents how we teach reading.
We want students to ask questions of themselves while reading. We also want them to predict what is going to happen next, and to make a connection to themselves or another book they have read.
We teach these skills in the classroom. But we also must encourage parents to do the same at home.
A Few Strategies that Help
How can we ensure that reading instruction continues at home?
One tool I have used is a reading strategy bookmark. In guided-reading book bags, which come home two times a week, we include this bookmark. This bookmark explains in simple detail the strategies we use to teach reading. It also has a page of questions parents can ask while reading with their child, like:
- What do you think the author is trying to teach us?
- What was your favorite part?
- Can you find the word _____?
- Tell me what happened at the beginning, middle, or end of the story.
This kind of reading can be used during the daily bedtime routine. This makes the books more fun and interesting, and helps students retain more information about their books. Such a routine can also become a time the child looks at with fond memories, a quality time with his or her family.
There’s another conversation to have with parents, and it can be awkward. That is, emphasizing the importance of their reading, too, so their child can see them taking pleasure in it.
We know children learn by watching. When they see parents only playing phone games or video games, checking emails, or staring at the television, this becomes the norm. On the other hand, if children see their parents enjoying a good book, we can more easily expect that child to read at home. Homework also becomes less of a battle.
We as educators know the importance of reading. But while we establish the importance of reading in our classroom, we need to remember that parents can help us further the importance of reading at home.
Tricia Ziegler (Twitter: @axf96; blog: http://kindergartentreasures.blogspot.com/) is a kindergarten teacher at Loon Lake Elementary, in the Walled Lake School District. She recently became part of the Walled Lake Teacher Leader Fellowship. She is in her tenth year of teaching, with eight in kindergarten and two in Second Grade. Prior to that she taught in the Walled Lake Great Start Readiness Program, which is a state-funded preschool program for at-risk students. Tricia attended Michigan State University for her undergraduate degree and specialization in Early Childhood. She then attended Wayne State University for her Master’s in Teacher Education.