Wednesday, November 22, 2017

On how to teach children to read broadly

My aunt is the most organized mother I’ve ever met. Over the summer, she has tasks for each day (“Make Something Monday,” “Science Tuesday,” etc) and throughout the year, the kids take turns planning excursions the family will go on over the weekend. But perhaps her most brilliant move is how she approaches reading with her children.
To begin with, she reads plenty of children’s books so that she can know what’s on the market for kids and so she’ll be able to discuss the books with her kids. Anything she likes, she recommends to the kids who are old enough to enjoy it. She also finds series that are appropriate for all the kids (easier than what the older kids tend to read, but not too difficult for the younger kids to understand) and reads them a few pages each night. Reading is definitely a part of their family. Extended family members know this and often recommend books that they think the kids might enjoy. They are drowning in recommendations - which they love.
In addition to all of this, my aunt has some rules for the weekly library trip. Each time they go, my aunt chooses a genre of book and helps each child find a book at their reading level within the genre. She makes sure to challenge herself by picking out her own book within the genre. Then the whole family picks out the rest of their books and they go home to enjoy their spoils. As they cycle back to a genre, the kids have usually changed their interests or reading level somewhat and move on to find new books. Sometimes the books aren’t great, but sometimes they find new favorites and start basing their reading decisions off that one book their mom made them get.
My cousins not only read a ridiculous amount of books, but they read broadly and have read several books from each genre their mom has thought of - and she’s thought of a lot [sci-fi, historical fiction, fantasy, contemporary fiction, creepy stories (they’re a bit young for straight-up horror novels), various subsets of non-fiction - these kids have read everything].
Not only am I jealous that they’re being forcefully exposed to so many books, but that they have someone with more reading experience and an intimate knowledge of their reading habits that is there to assist them in choosing the right book. I’m also impressed that finding these children good reading material has become a whole family endeavor - for all the cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents as well as the children’s own parents and siblings.
I haven’t found a better way to kindly expose children to new reading material while still having some control over what young (and often naive and impressionable) children are reading. I hope this spreads.

How do you encourage young readers to read broadly? How do you encourage yourself to read broadly?

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