Have you ever had the delight of reading a Fancy Nancy book? (Delight means something that gives you great joy.) I did last weekend and it was ten of the most entertaining minutes I spent. The book, Fancy Nancy and the Delectable Cupcakes, was gushing with pink and purple illustrations and bursting with colorful words like ‘aroma’ and ‘gourmet’. I enjoyed every page, but the part I enjoyed the most was having it read to me by my freshly-turned, 5-year-old friend, Oriana. The storyline was compelling. The graphics were adorable. But it was Oriana’s zest for reading that made my heart swell.
Her little finger followed each word as they carefully and soulfully fell from her mouth. Although she could correctly pronounce each word and bounded through the story with fluency, it was hard for me to believe that she actually understood what she was reading, as she is only in Pre-Kindergarten and has not had any formal reading instruction.
So, I tested her. “Why did they have to let the cupcakes cool off before they frosted them?”, I challenged her. “So the frosting wouldn’t melt, silly,” she retorted with an eye roll most teenagers would envy. She understood what she was reading and she loved it. How did that happen? How was this little girl able to transform letters on a page into a story in her mind, when no teacher had taught her how? And why aren’t all kids able to do the same, with such ease and panache?
Oriana is lucky to have been read to by her mother since she was born. One wall of her room is lined with knee-high shelves that display an array of colorful and silly books, at the ready if the urge hits Oriana. Every night Oriana gets to pick two books to be read to her by her father. Her mother has taught her to relish a skillfully-crafted, alliterative sentence. Now that she is able to read on her own, her mother has provided a steady stream of level-appropriate books. She has been raised in a home that loves words. That is the difference.
A child’s love of reading starts with their parents. You don’t have to be a reading coach to help your child read, but you do have to get involved in their reading.
- Read to them when they are young. It’s never too early to share the pleasure of a good story. Plus, you will be modeling what a good reader sounds like and how to interact with text.
- When they’re able or ready to start trying themselves, have them read to you. If they can’t pronounce a word, help them sound it out by syllable. If they misread a word, have them repeat it until they get it right. Ask them questions as they read to demonstrate comprehension skills.
- Keep active in your child’s reading life as they get older and read with them. Pick up the novel they’re reading in class and have conversations about it. Discuss and debate characters’ actions and motives. Reflect upon and clarify plot twists.
- Most importantly, be an example. Parents who read for pleasure regularly tend to have children who read for pleasure. Read anything: magazines, newspapers, novels or short stories. If you give value to words, the odds are your child will too.
Being able and loving to read are incredible assets to your child’s learning. Judging by the start that Oriana has had, she will have a great advantage as she progresses through school. And for that, she can thank her word-loving parents.