Notes from the Wild: Vol. 4

It’s Ready Set Learn / Welcome to Kindergarten season, that special time of year when children’s librarians across Vancouver visit elementary schools and talk to parents and caregivers about helping their children become strong, confident readers.

Kittens, Cat, Cat Puppy, Rush, Free Float, Kitten

Kittens, small children, tomato, tomato. Both are adorable and nearly impossible to wrangle.

Each presentation usually lasts no more than 10-15 minutes, so it’s vital that speakers be as efficient and engaging as possible. I like to focus my talks on simple, fun activities that caregivers can do every day to help their young readers be the strongest, happiest readers they can be.

“Four C’s of Raising Readers”

The “four c’s” are easy tips that caregivers can introduce into their daily routines to help support their children’s literacy development. While I’m usually talking to parents and caregivers of emerging readers, these principles can be applied to readers of all ages – literacy is a life-long process, and the need to support young people as they grow and develop never ends.

Choice

Children will be much more engaged in reading if they’re allowed to participate in picking the books they read, and are encouraged to pick books that excite them. To help children develop a life-long love of reading, let them follow their hearts, and let their interests guide their reading. There are no such things as “bad books” – the best books for a family are the books they enjoy reading together. Allowing children to select the books they read can also help them build confidence, as it indicates to them that their caregivers trust them and their choices, and believe in their ability to make good decisions.

Cat, Books, Black

Too….much….choice…

Conversation

Reading should be an interactive, participatory experience. Encourage children to think about what they’re reading and to explore and engage with the material, looking beneath the surface and reading between the lines. Discuss the books they’re reading with them and ask them questions about the images or the stories:

“Why do you think he did that?”

“How do you think she feels?”

“What do you think will happen next?”

“Can you tell me what you see in this picture?”

Cuddles

Help children associate reading with positive emotions and happy memories by making reading a fun, family activity. Whether snuggling together on the couch or sitting at the bus stop, reading is an opportunity for caregivers to bond with their children and connect with them in a loving way. The memories caregivers  and their children build together in early childhood can help children become life-long readers, and help them perceive reading as a pleasurable activity, rather than simply a task or a duty.

Cats, Cuddling, Sleeping, Domestic, Pet, Outdoor, Fur

Positive association development in process

Consistency

Imagine you exercise once a month. Sure it’s better than not doing any exercise at all, but you’re not really going to get that much physical benefit out of it.

Imagine instead that you make exercise a regular part of your weekly routine. Now you’re going to start losing weight, building muscle mass, strengthening your heart, and getting all the health benefits of exercise.

Dog, Run, Pasture, Grass, Animal, Fun, Race, Nature

Build that muscle mass, little doggie.

Reading is like exercise for your brain. Reading now and then is certainly better for you than not reading at all, but to get the most benefit out of reading you need to make it a part of your regular routine.

Caregivers should be encouraged to read their children every day, and to model reading to their family. Children often look up their caregivers, and want to emulate them, so seeing their parents valuing and enjoying reading can be a very positive experience. Reading should become a part of the family’s everyday life, something as natural and normal as brushing your teeth or washing your face.

The four C’s – Choice, Conversation, Cuddles and Consistency – are simple, easy, fun things that caregivers can do to help their children become confident, life-long readers.

What do you think of my four c’s? Any tips on how to help children become life-long readers?

3 responses to “Notes from the Wild: Vol. 4

  1. I still remember that my mom used to “read” all the time–I now know that she actually doesn’t like to read much. She’d get us to read out loud to her, and these were huge fantasy tombs, and though she’d promptly fall asleep I’d keep on reading, haha.
    Moms are wiley.

  2. Aw, I never had anything like this in the Indian school system, but all of them are such good points! And honestly, they work on adults too, I think! :D

  3. We never really had anything like this in Canada when I was a kid, either! Educators are finding that too many children are coming in to kindergarten without the basic early literacy skills they need to succeed. The sad fact is that if a child is already falling behind when they’re only 5 or 6 years old, they might never catch up, and might always have limited literacy skills that could limit their future opportunities. There’s a increased emphasis now on early intervention, and on trying to support caregivers so that they can help their children. And you’re right, we could all learn a thing or two from these tips! The brain is a muscle that needs a workout, too!

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