Love of Reading is Contagious

(Third in a series on tutoring.)

Some people are especially fond of books. I’m told that as a little kid I used to fall asleep with a Little Golden Book on my face many nights. But even people who are not naturally crazy about reading can be taught the value and joy of it through example.

Maker:L,Date:2017-9-19,Ver:5,Lens:Kan03,Act:Kan02,E-ve

The trick with tutoring is to be strict enough to get to work, but to make it fun enough that students associate reading with a good time.

Ideas for Teaching the Value of Reading:

  • Tell kids how important reading is, how every part of school will be easier once they know a lot of words and can read smoothly. Tell them you want them to become great readers, and learn as many words as possible.
  • Challenge them to make reading progress a goal. We use fluency tests in our lessons, and have kids plot on a graph how many correct words they read in one minute. It can be very encouraging for them to see their graphs go up as they improve in reading that passage from week to week. Progress should never be compared to other kids though – they just compete against their earlier scores. Kids who cannot read much yet can be timed for how many Dolch sight words they can remember – start with a pre-primer list: https://www.grps.org/images/departments/academics/pdfs/ela/dolch_alphabetized_by_grade.pdf
  • Tell kids stories of how much of a difference reading has made for you or someone you know. Tell them all the things you like to read. I like to tell a story of Ben Carson’s, from his book, “Gifted Hands” . The famous neurosurgeon grew up in poverty with a single mom who did not have much education, but she knew the value of reading. She made her boys read two library books a week, and he believes that had a great deal to do with his success in school.

Ideas for Making it Fun:

  • I know this is unenlightened, but we’re shameless about giving out candy rewards. I bring a big bowl of mixed varieties, and tell tutors to use it as incentive in any way they want. We give kids candy for memorizing verses, for hitting fluency goals, for finishing assignments – whatever it takes.
  • We let kids who finish their reading tasks for the session do something fun that is word-related, such as reading a picture book to them that they’re interested in, or doing a crossword puzzle or word search.
  • We give students lots of affirmation for any progress they make. This is really important. Find something to affirm, even if it’s only that the kid listened for a whole page without interrupting, or stayed in his seat for ten minutes. Look for positives and look for improvement and call it out every time. Many kids who struggle in school get more negative feedback than positive, and they need their hope and confidence rebuilt.
  • We invite families to three sessions a year, where we serve dinner, play some fun games, and tell parents and grandparents how well the students are doing. It means a great deal to a child that their tutor cares about and has talked with people in their family.

There is nothing better to see than a kid’s face light up when they have successfully read a book. It makes it all worthwhile!

Just Read the Bible (10 Things I’m Glad we did for our Kids, Part V)

I could write a long list of things I wish I’d done for our kids, but if I had to pick one thing I’m glad I did do, I would have no trouble choosing: I read to them from the Bible each morning.

Pekka Halonen, Children Reading

When our oldest was two, we got a little red toddler Bible, (The First Step Bible, Mack Thomas, Gold’n’Honey Books.)  It was the simplest, most pre-school friendly Bible story book I’ve ever found.  It’s falling apart now; but it’s still the first thing I read to any little visitor who comes over.

It was easy to read the Bible to our three boys during their early school years because we home-schooled them.  Before academic work started, we settled on the couch and I read to them from an NIV simplified to a third grade reading level, (NIV Kids’ Study Bible, Zonderkidz.) Sometimes I would have them retell the story to me, or act it out during a second reading.

Most people I knew who were homeschooling seemed to be teaching the Bible in the same way they taught academic subjects, with workbooks and lesson plans.   I recall asking a wise lady who home-schooled all five of her kids, what curriculum she used.  She answered, “I don’t use curriculum.  I just read them the Bible.  And after I read a passage, I ask them three questions, “Who is wise?”, “Who is foolish?” and, “What do you learn about God?”  That seemed a lot more appealing and sustainable.

When we stopped homeschooling after the primary years, and the boys went to grade school, finding time to read the Bible in the morning was a lot more challenging.  There was no peaceful time when everyone was together in the same room.  I ended up settling into a pattern of reading to them as they ate breakfast.  Sometimes this meant reading the same passage three different times, but we stuck with it.

It got even tougher when they became teenagers.  One liked to sleep in until the very last minute and grab something to eat on his way out the door.  Another was resistant to having to listen to anything in in the morning.  Another  just didn’t want to be told that he had to do anything at all.

My response to all their attitude was some version of, “This book is the story of how God saves people and how he wants us to live, so it’s really important to read it.  Either you read it yourself, or you listen to me read it”.  I didn’t require comment or discussion from them, and I kept commentary to a bare minimum.  I didn’t want to come in between them and their experience of Scripture.

I think this has been a good approach for teenagers.  I let the Bible speak for itself, and if their eyes were glazed and far away as I read, that was their business.  You can only lead the horse to water!

In high school, two of the three boys preferred to read by themselves in the morning, which is the habit I always hoped would form.  The other guy said, “You better keep reading it to me because I know if it’s up to me I won’t make time for it.”  So I read on.

Recently I asked one boy – the one who most resents being told what to do, if he thinks it has been good for him to have the Bible read to him for all these years.  After thinking a moment, he answered, “Yeah.  I think it kept me from doing a lot of stupid stuff.”