Getting Students Excited About Reading

Learn how children in kindergarten and first grade can develop a strong passion in reading, ways to challenge them, and the warning signs of reading difficulties.
Three small children excited about reading together

When we send our children off to kindergarten, we worry if they're prepared to be away from home. We quickly realize, though, that they're ready for this new adventure, as their brains are eager to absorb a whole lot more. It's critical for parents to stay involved and read daily with their children at this age. According to a report published by Andreas Schleicher, Director for Education and Skills and Special Advisor on Education Policy to the Secretary-General for the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development, "the first five years of children's lives are crucial to their development...In order to foster this development, children require ongoing interaction with, and care and attention from, their parents and other caregivers."

In a recent interview I conducted with Holliston Elementary School Librarian and Start U.Reading event manager Lynda Canal, I learned more first hand about how to encourage reading and what reading challenges may present themselves in kindergarten and first grade. Here's a bit of our conversation below.

Sherri: How can you get kids this age to develop a strong passion in reading?

Lynda: Pick books that interest them not you. Take them to the library or the bookstore and go to the sections that are appropriate for them, those that include picture books, small chapter books, and anything for beginning readers. Look to see what your child picks up to read. Sit down and read with your son or daughter. Take turns reading. In our library we have a 5 finger rule: Have the child pick up a book and read the first page. If the child is stuck on at least 5 words on the page, put down the book and select another. Otherwise, the child will get too frustrated trying to read the book.

Sherri: What are some early warning signs of reading difficulties and what can a parent do to help?

Lynda: One of the signs would be a child having a hard time manipulating sounds in words, or struggling with rhyming, word games, or recognizing words that start with the same sound. Another sign would be if the child frequently sounds out the same word every time it's on the page. It's important to know there is no precise list to diagnose reading difficulties. Every child is unique and may only exhibit some of these signs. Also, just because your child may struggle with reading doesn't mean there is a serious problem. Bring it to your teacher's attention and request an assessment.

Sherri: What are ways to challenge advanced young readers?

Lynda: This is one of my favorite things about working in the library. I will often suggest a book that is a bit harder. Then when the child comes back, we talk about it. It's fun to see what the child learned from the characters, and this way I can tell if the book was just right, or too hard. I think one of the tricky parts about reading is that sometimes kids will take out books just to have a book, but will not actually read through the entire book. Talking about it together brings it to another level where you can compare notes on the story. Some children will bring the book back before it's due because they didn't like it. That is perfectly fine! I would rather have a child come back and pick another book then not come back at all.

As you navigate the early elementary years, you'll see how valuable it is to spend time reading with your child and working closely with your child's teacher. These are formative years leaving a direct impact on future academic success. Plus, the time spent snuggling up with your child can never be replaced. I've learned many things that happened during my son's school day while curled up with a Dr. Seuss's One Cent, Two Cents, Old Cent, New Cent that he would not have shared otherwise!

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