Reading & Literacy Opinion

I Still Read to My 10-Year-Old Son

By Starr Sackstein — January 07, 2016 4 min read
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It’s miraculous right?

My 10-year-old son still enjoys the sound of me reading to him before bed and I will continue to do it until he adamently protests against it.

As a high school English teacher, I see lots of kids. There is a small percentage who really enjoy reading, bathing themselves in words and fantasy worlds rather than face the reality of this world. These students have my heart and eagerly talk to me about these magical places.

Then there are the majority of high school students who no longer enjoy reading or never did. I have theories as to why, but as parents and teachers we have the ability to transform that experience.

By the 5th grade (that’s what grade Logan is in now), Logan has to read 30 minutes a night and must fill out a reading log. For the record, I abhor reading logs. You heard me correctly, an English teacher of 14 years who absolutely CANNOT stand the idea of reading logs, because they absolutely suck the joy out of reading. Why should a child have to read for a set amount of time and then report back about it to prove that they have?

It’s unnatural and counterintuitive to what good readers do for fun.

That being said, we do what can in our house to make reading time engaging. While I cook dinner, Logan reads to me and I’m able to talk to him about what he is reading, answer the questions he has and then when it comes time to write his log, we can talk it through together. It makes the time go by faster and it also shows him that I value the time we spend thinking about reading and words.

Perhaps Logan doesn’t understand the bigger impact of spending time in a book, but I do. Since Logan was a fetus, I was reading to him. Every night, I’d rub my belly and I’d read a short book so he could hear my voice and we could create a routine that was loving and fun.

Because of my infatuation with words after Logan was born, the years that followed weren’t filled with “goo-goo ga ga” but rather words (that although Logan may not have been able to understand them all), he grew to understand context and the tone of my voice and when he started speaking (which he did much sooner than he walked), he already used good vocabulary.

Listening to Logan talk at 10, you’d think for sure he was a teenager. Cleverly, he weaves words together and understands sarcasm and deliberately imitates my faces while he uses certain words.

It isn’t just reading that Logan and I do together to foster a love of language. We play Scrabble. We’ve been playing Scrabble since before he could spell. And although I was largely playing both hands, he was watching and trying and learned to be adept at the game. Now at 10, he is a worthy opponent who can play the board like a musician plays an instrument, crafting how and where to use his letters. He is allowed to use a dictionary, however (slightly adjusting the regular play rules), rather than challenge his made up words, it is an opportunity for him to learn new words and for us to do it together.

Scrabble in concert with a bedtime reading routine makes reading in our house fun. At night, Logan climbs into bed and I snuggle up with him. Right now we are reading Harry Potter and The Half Blood Prince (which is my favorite Potter book in the series). As we’ve read through the series, Logan has made connections between the movies and the books, he’s recognized discrepancies and he even corrects me from time to time if I mispronounce a word. I love that he still lets me to read to him. I know it won’t be forever, so I take advantage of it now.

In my classroom, students aren’t expected to keep reading logs, but they are encouraged to independently read in addition to their classroom reading. Selecting books off the AP book list or other books of their own interest, students are asked to keep a blog and write a post once a week. Not on any particular day, but whenever they feel struck to do it.

Getting students to love reading is about access, interest and engagement. Rather than write logs or analysis papers on their independent books, they’re asked to just “react” to the literature and poetry in a way that allows them to develop their own voice as readers and writers. They are further encouraged to read each other’s blogs and comment regularly. This activity builds buzz around particular books and also makes for interesting connections during class discussion time that enriches the overall learning experience.

Reading is the most effective way to develop vocabulary, voice and enhance brain development. As an English teacher, I can tell my readers in their writing as there is a delicate complexity that exists that is harder to teach. The earlier we can get students excited about words, the better their chances of being successful in life. Not necessarily only reading literature, students have so much to choose from now. Encourage them to read it all - - whatever inspires them. They need not be limited by what we deem appropriate.

How do you inspire a love of reading in your children? Please share.

Check out my Periscope on the subject of how I created this post.

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