Every year I start getting calls at the beginning of August from panicked parents who suddenly realize that summer is nearly over...school is starting soon...and their kids haven’t done ANY of the reading they were supposed to be doing ALL summer! For some kids, summer is the perfect opportunity to voraciously turn page after page in book after book. But, for many other kids, without the direct pressure from school expectations, summer is the place where reading goes to die. Summers are filled with camp programs, pool outings, late night movie nights, vacations and many other fun, exhausting activities that limit a child’s time for reading. Often, when little heads finally hit the pillow at night, their eyes simply can’t stay open for another moment to read. Additionally, for some children, who do not naturally love reading yet, or who find reading a challenging and unenjoyable experience, summer presents the perfect time to avoid the activity.
Unfortunately, you child can not make up for a summer of not reading during the few weeks in August before school begins. However, you can start putting a few activities in place that will help change your child’s attitude towards reading, slowly strengthen skills and start to build confidence in one of the most important abilities needed for school success.
Well meaning, but worried parents understandably tend to add lots of stress and pressure into reading sessions with reluctant readers...this only makes it less enjoyable and harder to read. As a special education teacher for more than 20 years, I’ve taught hundreds of struggling learners how to read.
LENA'S SECRET READING METHOD:
My secret has been to take all of the stress and pressure away from the activity. I do this by creating silly scenarios where children do not feel like they are doing something that is hard, but rather something that is wacky and fun. Eventually, as children start associating reading with fun activities, and their confidence and skills increase, they will be reading for pleasure without the games and silly activities. The ability to read is essential, but the joy of reading is a lifelong gift that parents can help provide to children.
IMPORTANT KOALA COACH READING GUIDELINE:
If your child is reading anything that is too difficult it will not be enjoyable. When kids are reading independently or for pleasure, make sure that they are reading books on or even below their reading level. Don’t worry when children want to read books that are too easy for them. Reading is reading. Eventually, if you allow children to enjoy learning how to read they will read appropriate books for their age. If your child is reading something that is too hard they will not be making reading progress. Instead, they will be learning that reading is not fun.
IMPORTANT KOALA COACH WARNING:
If reading feels too difficult for your child despite lots of stress-free practice, you should contact a learning specialist to figure out how your child learns best and the next steps that should be taken to help your child learn how to read. I’m always happy to provide a consultation. Please contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
SECRET KOALA COACH TIP:
When I read with my students and my children I do not interrupt them with corrections. Here is a partial list of what happens to a child that is interrupted with corrections: The child feels embarrassed, it's annoying, nervousness increases, reading mistakes increase, the reading flow is broken up, comprehension decreases. DON’T INTERRUPT A READING CHILD! I know it’s really hard to allow a child to make a mistake while reading. But here is the rule -- If the mistake does not change the meaning of the passage, don’t worry about it. I point to the words as kids are reading them, if they make a mistake on a word that does change the meaning, I stop pointing and rest my finger on the word where the mistake has been made. This is a stress-free signal to the child to go back and try the word again. If there are several mistakes -- your child is reading something that is too hard. I can not stress this enough: If your child is reading something that is too hard they will NOT be making reading progress. Instead, they will be learning that reading is not fun.
ENJOY SEVERAL LOW STRESS FUN ACTIVITIES THAT PROMOTE READING:
1)READING TO THE ROSES: It’s essential to practice reading in as many low-stress situations as possible. Sometimes, creating a silly scenario helps. One idea is to conduct a family experiment to find out if a plant will grow more if you read to it! First, have your child choose two plants. Then have your child measure and record the date as well as the heights of each plant. Throughout the designated time period your child should only read to one designated plant. After each reading session, both plants should be measured. Gardens are relaxing and plants are happy to listen to young readers without judgement, corrections or added pressure. Although reading will not actually affect plant growth; if this experiment is performed diligently, your child’s reading growth will definitely be measurable!
2) READING TO ROVER: Reading to the family pet or a favorite stuffed animal can lower the stress-level for reluctant readers. Kids enjoy cuddling up with their dog to sound out a few words and practice a page in a book before reading out loud to a parent. Another favorite activity is to set up an entire class of stuffed animals that are listening eagerly to your child, the story time leader.
3) ROCK AND ROLL READING: A super fun reading activity for everyone, but especially helpful for very reluctant readers is to provide a Karaoke reading experience. Go to YouTube and put in the name of a song followed by the word ‘lyrics.’ As the song plays, words will flash across the screen. Children will be dancing and singing along without realizing that they are also reading! This will increase sight word fluency and add in just a little bit of reading for kids that are refusing to read anything else. It’s a starting point to begin to increase reading skills and attitudes toward reading.
4) NIGHT MESSAGES: Night Message is a favorite Koala Coach activity that brings a short message to be read by your child as part of the bedtime routine. You can watch the Night Messages video here!
5) Find 10 more stress-free ways to encourage reading here!
-- If you have a very young child that is too young to start reading you can work on pre-reading skills to get them ready to read when the time is right.
-- If your August panic is not about reading, but is instead about Math, read the Koala Coach Truth about Math here!
-- For even more stress-free reading activities that fit right into your busy schedule gain access the the entire Koala Coach Reading, Writing and Math sections with a subscription to Koala Coach! Use promo code: first4learning for a 50% discount.