Saturday, August 29, 2015

Why do I have to read 20 minutes every night?

 It’s that time of night. You know, when your child has finished all of her homework assignments and you remind her that she hasn't done her twenty minutes of reading.

A serious whining session may begin. “Why do I have to read twenty minutes every night? Do I really have to do twenty minutes? Can I do ten tonight and then thirty tomorrow?”

If your child enjoys reading, this is something that is not very familiar to you. In fact, some of you may have to convince your child to put his book down to do his other assignments.

I have always been a reader. In fact, I call myself an escapist reader. When I want to check out of reality and all of the stresses, I love to pick up a book and escape to another time and place.

Until I became a teacher, I had no idea that not everyone did this. Part of me is saddened that some children and adults alike find reading to be unpleasant if not torturous. 

Reading is one of those skills, though, that is critical no matter what you plan to do in life. Even if you have no desire to escape into a book, it is something we do every day.

Teachers have known it for years, and research has shown, that the more you read, the better you read. There is also a connection between reading and academic achievement.

Students who read at least twenty minutes a night have some obvious academic advantages, but I know that is not a compelling argument for a child who would "rather be doing a zillion other things," or who is just ready for bed.

Here are a few tips to help your reluctant reader and hopefully, make reading time more peaceful and productive:

  1. Help your child find just right books. There are no benefits to staring at a page or two for twenty minutes. If a book is too hard, your child will not comprehend the text. Her vocabulary will not grow because there are too many unknown words to use context clues, and there will be little to enjoy if she doesn't know what is happening. There are some benefits to reading and rereading books that are easy, but at least some of the time should be spent with books that will expand her comprehension and develop new vocabulary.
  2. Just "chunk it." If your child really dislikes reading, divide the twenty minutes into smaller chunks. Read part of the time right after his afternoon snack, some of it between other homework assignments, and the rest right before bed. While there are definite benefits to increasing the amount of reading your child does, it is not necessary to do it all at one time.
  3. What are her interests? We all like to find out more about things that we are interested in. Who would voluntarily go to a movie about something they hate? Go with her to the library and help her find books on things she is interested in. While teachers and librarians try really hard at school to help students find books they'll enjoy, you know her better. You may be able to look into topics you know she likes but has not mentioned at school.
  4. Read with your child. It is very important that your child knows that his reading is important to you. Read the book with your child and share interesting parts of the story with him. Talking about books adds to your child's engagement with the book. It will also help you and him monitor his comprehension.
  5. Model reading. It is very powerful for your child to see you read. So you don't like fiction? Read the newspaper or a book about your hobby. Many of us have reading associated with our work. Let your child see you read a technical manual or a report.
Is your child an eager reader or a reluctant reader? Leave a comment below about some of your child's reading struggles and/or successes.

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