When parents call to ask for a tutor for English, reading comprehension, writing, or spelling, the first question I generally ask is whether their child reads for pleasure. The answer is usually no. You may be surprised to learn that avid readers are generally excellent writers because they know how sentences should be structured, what kinds of wording gets a reader's attention, and how words should be spelled. They don't need much instruction in grammar because they can immediately tell when a sentence doesn't look right. Because reading comprehension is a part of every subject in school, avid readers have a big advantage. They are good at it because they practice every day. I cannot emphasize enough how much reading for pleasure helps students succeed at every level of school.
This does not mean children need to read classics, fiction, or high quality writing. They will get better at reading comprehension, writing, grammar, and spelling by reading anything, as long as they read a lot. Reading should be a daily part of every family's life, starting as babies. But it is never too late to start. Here are some ideas:
- Until 3rd grade, read to your children daily. Be sure to let them help pick out the books.
- As they are learning to read, in grades K-2, let your children read to you. But remember, it may be tiring for them. Alternate reading paragraphs, pages, or chapters.
- Once your children become independent readers, they will probably find it more efficient to read silently. Encourage them to continue with the same book until it is finished.
- Your child may prefer nonfiction. Go to the library or bookstore or shop online for books in topics that interest them.
- Have a family reading time, when every family member sits around reading for 15-30 minutes, maybe after dinner or before bed.
- Do not abandon reading time as your children get older. Work together to find books that will pique your child's interest. Then find another book by the same author or read books in a series. Your children can ask friends what they enjoyed reading and look online for ideas.
- Be open to many types of reading, such as magazines, graphic novels, recorded books, and articles online. It is fine to read books that are easy.
- Do not take too much school work as an excuse to not read for pleasure. We can always find a few minutes a day to read.
- Consider reading the same books as your child and discussing them. Consider a neighborhood book club. Consider reading one of your child's assigned books and then discussing it. Discuss how you each visualize the characters and scenes.
- Read a book and then watch the movie. Then compare what you each visualized and how the movie depicted the same scenes.
I'm sure you can come up with more ways to encourage your children to read. I am here to tell you how reading for pleasure helps children succeed in school. But an added benefit is that reading really is fun and relaxing - a great way to get out of your life and into another zone. But you have to practice to become fluent and get the full benefits. Thanksgiving break is a great time to read, and if you are traveling, take those books along or listen to a recorded book on your car trip.