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Fostering a love of reading can help your kids’ academic performance.

Photo credit: Open Jar Studios

The pandemic pushed parents to take on the role of teacher overnight, and despite the challenges, parents rose to the occasion and facilitated learning as best as they could. But as anxious as some parents felt, children were hit the hardest. Many children were reluctant to learn content because of the sudden shift in their sense of normalcy.

Many studies show that students who are avid readers are prepared to succeed in multiple domains. 

Trying to motivate reluctant learners can be a daunting task. There are many aspects of this pandemic that has caused our reluctant learners to struggle academically and emotionally. Our kids are just as stressed as we are! They miss their friends, they are tired of being at home, and they are not used to learning from their parents.

Perfecting a teaching style that caters to the needs of a reluctant learner takes years to accomplish, but the one thing parents can do to support their child’s academic readiness now is to instill a love of reading.

Many studies show that students who are avid readers are prepared to succeed in multiple domains. But in a world of Tik-Tok, YouTube, and Netflix, the last thing many kids find interesting is picking up a book. However, I have cultivated a few successful techniques parents can use to promote a positive reading culture in their home-classroom, for any age.

1. Integrate reading into your family culture.

My first piece of advice is to treat reading like a religion. I’m from the South, and religion was intertwined in almost everything I did. It was not something that only happened on Sundays. My parents made sure it was a consistent fiber that encompassed my identity through daily reminders and conversations. As I realized its importance, I began to ask questions and seek it independently on my own.

Reading should be treated with the same level of importance. Have an ongoing conversation about what your kids are reading or have read. Ground their success in reading, and inquire about its influence by letting them explore what books hold meaning to them.

Reading culture is built in the classroom and cultivated at home. Parents can do this by building habits and routines that promote literacy.

Celebrate when your child finishes a book, let your kids see YOU reading, make a specialized “reading place” just for them. Talk about what they’re reading in casual conversations, car rides, or during your daily activities.

When kids see that you think it is essential, they will start to realize that reading isn’t something that only happens at school, but a gift that they can bond over with others.

2. Make reading personal.

What do Netflix, Hulu, Spotify, and even hair products have in common? They all are customized for their consumer. Adults love products because they feel like they were made just for them. That same marketing tactic should be applied to reading, especially when a child picks out a book.

Instead of having them pick out a book, you select a book for them and tell them why it represents them. “I know you love Paw Patrol, so here is a book about a little boy and his friends who save the world just like them!”

If you have older kids, find books that are culturally reflective and relevant. Search for a novel (or a comic) that embodies a situation they are going through. This takes research, but the payoff is worth it.

3. Find real-world applications for reading.

The biggest skill students struggle with is comprehension. You can improve your child’s comprehension without forcing them to read more or throwing a worksheet in their face. Build a thinking skill that requires students to apply what they’ve read to their lives or something going on in the world.

Children who can connect texts build a cognitive ability of association, which will reinforce the text’s central idea or theme. You can do this by asking your children to put themselves in the character’s shoes (“Would you have done that?”) or try to relate to the characters (“Have you ever felt this way?”).

Reinforce that main idea by asking why or how they come up with these conclusions. Eventually, they will reference the text just like that! You’ve taught them how to support their inferences with evidence from the book.

4. Associate reading with positive things.

This is the MOST vital tip to think about when building reading habits and encouraging reluctant learners. Please, do not use reading as a punishment. I have seen this happen both with parents and teachers, and it sends a message to a child that reading is bad.

Always associate reading with positive things (e.g. praise, stickers, or snack time), but never associate it with negativity. We want to ensure our kids read for pleasure, not punishment. Make reading a part of your culture, and not a task.

In the midst of the pandemic, the best thing you can do to set your child up for success is fostering their love of reading. To learn more about how to academically support students during this pandemic, feel free to scour my free resource library for more strategies and resources.

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Gabriell Gaiter is a passionate middle school English teacher who is the founder of the tutoring agency The Innovative Learners. As an advocate for literacy and equity in education, she and her team of “Teacher-Tutors” tutor students by curating lessons that are culturally relevant and multicultural.

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