Children’s Bookroom: Encouraging Young Readers

In kindergarten, I took my reading textbook home without permission. My newfound love for reading proved to have been greater than the fear of my teacher finding out my little secret. I also fibbed to my parents and told them my homework assignment existed within the pages of that Dick and Jane Reader. All evening, I delighted in the words and illustrations of each page. Afraid my teacher would soon notice the missing book, I took it back to school the next day. Even as a young child, I felt convicted and never took another book home again, without consent! I do not know if my parents ever found out the truth about the book; nevertheless, my reading ambitions, along with their existing reading habits encouraged me in my reading quest.

Parents play a critical role in fostering the development in their children’s ability to read and in enhancing their child’s enjoyment of reading. However, as a retired teacher-librarian, I interacted daily with children who lacked literacy support from home. Often, television, video games, and social media replaces the art of reading. As parents and teachers, how can we change this dire state of events?

First, children emulate what they observe at home and at school. They see us working, teaching, cooking, cleaning, etc. However, are our children imitating us reading? It is just as important children observe their parents and teachers’ reading as it is for them to observe our other daily activities. Read books, magazines, or newspapers in your child’s presence. Read to your child and allow them to read to you. Your child should read daily for at least 10 minutes or more depending on their age and grade level. Also, make a variety of books visible in the home. Novels, children’s books, coloring books, and/or magazines are available at garage sales, flea markets, and dollar stores for a minimal cost. In addition, take advantage of public library book sales.

As a child, I remember going to the public library at least once a week. Unfortunately, I find some children as old as ten and eleven lacking the experience of ever visiting a public library or a bookstore. Make a commitment to take your child to the library at least once a month. Get them a library card and allow them to check out books. Remember, the books must be returned! Furthermore, during the week, school breaks, weekends, and summers, public libraries plan special events such as arts and crafts, movie time, story time, book clubs, and reading programs.

Book Buddies (2nd grade students paired with 5th graders) Barnes & Noble Field Trip: Two 2nd grade girls working on Scavenging the Shelves.
Barnes & Noble Field Trip. Book Buddies (2nd grade students paired with 5th graders): Two 2nd grade girls working on Searching the Shelves.

In addition, a bookstore visit does not always have to end with a purchase. Visit a bookstore for the sake of browsing the shelves. Allow your child to sit in the children’s area and read them a story or let them read to you. Bookstores also display clearance or sales items. On one of my visits to the bookstore with my grandchildren, I gave them a spending budget of $4.00 each. I gave them one stipulation; they could not purchase toys. They both found items to satisfy their reading aspirations.

One of the best strategies I can provide to any adult is to allow children to choose their own books. I’ve often heard children being told that they could not check out a certain book or a series of books. Instead, I would suggest allowing children to check out at least one book of their choice and the other book based on a parent’s or teacher’s recommendation. It is understandable when a teacher does not approve certain books for students. After all, the goal is for students to read on their independent reading level or “just right” books. This provides students with a level of success in their reading. An alternative is to locate books on the child’s lexile (numeric representation of one’s reading ability) level that also matches their interest (Taberski, 2000).

Probing children to determine their interest can assist both parents and teachers in encouraging them to read, especially struggling readers. Animals, insects, cars, and people fascinate children. Tap into their curiosity and provide books on that subject. Taberski (2000) indicates while fiction engages children, it will not prepare them for nonfiction or informational text they will read most frequently throughout their later school years. Nonfiction books offer children a different genre that delivers exciting and intriguing facts related to their interest.

In conclusion, how can we connect literacy in the home and in the classroom? Communicate often with your child’s teacher about their schoolwork, grades, and their reading abilities. Discuss your concerns and ask questions. Consider hiring a reading tutor, if necessary. Overall, the goal is to keep your child reading and to support them in this endeavor!

Book Recommendations:

  • Pat the Bunny by Dorothy Kunhardt
  • Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss
  • What Do People Do All Day? by Richard Scarry
  • Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White
  • Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis
  • When Marion Sang by Pam Muñoz Ryan

Work Cited

Taberski, S. (2000). On solid ground: Strategies for teaching reading K-3. Portsmouth, NH:                         Heinemann.

Thanks for stopping by and I invite you to join me week after next as I continue to explore literacy topics and issues affecting children.

Vanessa Fortenberry,
Retired Teacher-Librarian
M.Ed., Media
Ed.S., Media
Reading Endorsement