1. Don't put down your child's reading material. Yes, children should be able to read what they want, but there are also limits. Would you let your child watch inappropriate material on television? I have banned Captain Underpants and Horrible Harry, to name a few, from our reading. Why? The content is inappropriate. Does this stifle their love for reading? Not in anyway. There are millions of other books out there to choose from. I did not take away a genre of literature, I set a limit on literature content. When they get older, if they really want to read those things, then go right ahead, but before high school (I'll probably change that to middle school as time goes by), certain books are just not allowed.
2. Don't provide the wrong level material. Provide all levels. Just to set your expectations to your child reading War and Peace at age 7. If you force books that are above reading level, it will discourage children from reading. If you offer books of interest at a higher reading level, it actually can encourage reading. For example, it took Monster about 4 times through The Lightening Thief to actually read it well enough to understand. The more he practiced, the better he got. He wanted to read it so badly that he sat with it and practiced and practiced. Now, did he have material that was appropriate for his reading level to supplement, of course. In fact, I didn't expect him to read The Lightening Thief on his own. I thought it would be one we read together. On the same note, it's important to give students reading material below their reading level. This not only helps to build fluency, but it also builds confidence. I have Monster read to his sister and it's so beneficial for both of them. Children are now assessed at school in different ways to find their reading level. At Monster's school, they use the DRA. Best way to find a book that is right for your child to go off of what the school provides. If your school doesn't assess or you homeschool, then there's the five finger rule. Read the first paragraph (and I'm talking several sentences). If your child has trouble with 5 or more of the words, the book is too difficult. There is no such thing as a book that is too easy if your child is interested in it, unless your child refuses to move on to more challenging material. Again, there's my reasoning for providing all reading levels. Go to the library. Worst that happens is you child doesn't read the book you just checked out for free.
3. Don't use reading as a punishment. I send my children to their rooms to read quite often during the day. I do this as cool down time for all of us. When they are in serious trouble, they just go to their rooms and have to sit on their beds. If we all just need a moment, the best way to do that is to get some quiet time, which reading provides. My children ASK if they can go to their rooms to read when they need a break. Now, if you're forcing your child to read something they don't want out loud at the kitchen table, maybe that would be seen more as a punishment, but I also know that sometimes, that's what needs to be done. Homework every night, until high school, is reading for at least 20 minutes. For kids who don't enjoy reading, this can be a punishment. Forcing a child who does not like reading to sit for the entire 20 minutes and read aloud is punishment. There are so many other ways to get that 20 minutes of reading in. Reading what's on the calendar for the next day, helping prepare a meal by reading the recipe, reading the comics, creating a grocery list, are all ways to engage children who aren't interested in reading without making it seem like a punishment. That being said, there is also a point where you do need to make them sit down and just read because that's just how homework goes sometimes. I love reading, but I remember having to sit down and read science for homework. I would have rather had my teeth drilled. But we all get through it.
4. Don't forget to give your child books as gifts. If you have never given your children books as a present, shame on you. Too expensive you say? There are books at the Dollar Store and in the dollar bins at Target. There's also paperbackswap.com. If you can afford to buy your kid toys, you can afford books. If you truly can't afford them, there are organizations out there where you can get them free. I know that my doctor's office has a bin of books that you are able to take one home, plus, they give you a book at your check up.
5. Don't explain to your child that they aren't really reading yet when they are only looking at the pictures. I say, don't discourage this, but do let your child know there are words on the page the create the story as well. Story telling through pictures is a stage of pre-reading which should be encouraged. In fact, "picture walks" through books is a strategy for teaching comprehension even when children can read the words. You need to encourage both picture story telling and the relation of text to the story. Even when students memorize an entire story, this is pre-reading. It's an important step to reading, but it's important to let children know there's more to it as well. Monster is always telling his sister she's not really reading and we always discuss that picture reading is a step towards reading actual words. Sunshine gets that. She knows there is a correlation between the text and the story and the pictures and the story. She understands she's not reading the text, but also knows that the pictures in the story help to explain what the text says...and she's 4.
6. Don't forget to let your kids see you read for fun. This is so important. Children learn from example.
7. Don't over-correct and over-practice. This is a fine line. You want to correct and practice, but you don't want to do the same thing so much that it makes your child shut down. The key to this is knowing your child and knowing their limits. For example, Monster is one I can push. When he was reading The Lightening Thief, he kept saying /optimums/ for "olympians". I made he say it over and over and over and over. I even quizzed him at random times and places. He would huff and ask why he had to say it over and over, but he's not one to be discouraged by that. I will not be able to push Sunshine like that. She will shut down. She is stubborn and believes she is always right and knows better than anyone else. You need to practice and you need to correct. It's just a matter of finding the line between helping and frustrating. There is no one way of knowing where that line is.
8. Don't forget to read to your kids! We forgot with Monster. We stopped reading to him for about 4 months last year since he's such a great independent reader. Then I realized we weren't reading to him and we started again. We're reading books that he can read, but it makes them a little more special because we're reading them together. Reading to your kids is so important, no matter what reading level they are at! Plus, it's a great way to get your kids to snuggle with you!