Many parents think their children aren’t actually “reading” unless they’ve picked up a library book or are doing school-related reading. But there are many ways to indirectly enhance a broad range of reading skills in the home. Aside from food boxes and packages, directions for using tools and making repairs, taking medication, and other printed matter, there is a daily “reader” that reaches practically every home in America. It’s the newspaper-and it’s a veritable goldmine for encouraging and developing reading, thinking, and learning skills. The same is true of magazines of interest.
If you are seen reading newspapers and magazines and not relying on television as the sole source for news and entertainment, chances are high that your children will do the same. Enough cannot be said about the importance of parents as role models for what their children do, think, feel, and value.
The advantage of a morning paper is that time may not be as “tight” in the morning as it is in the evening. Morning time allows reviewing important parts of the newspaper and getting a feel for critical issues as the day begins.
Key sections of the newspaper that offer special appeal are:
- The front news section (world and regional events of interest, such as disasters, conflicts, trends in legislation, deaths of well- known personalities, etc.)
- Columnists such as Dear Abby and Miss Manners
- Comic strips with special favorites
- Display ads featuring sales and new products
- Movie, theater, concert, and television program reviews
- Sports pages, batting averages, outcome of key games, highlights on sports personalities, interviews
- Financial news-while they may not have immediate interest to teenagers, often the financial pages will highlight fascinating trends and new products
- The classified ad section will be appealing to teenagers interested in such things as stereo equipment, cars. part-time jobs, etc.
- The editorial pages which sometimes carry fairly dramatic letters to the editor
- Assorted material-recipes, book reviews, human interest stories, et cetera
Perhaps a comment such as “Oh, look at this! Can you believe this?” will perk up interest as a parent sees something that relates to the child’s life or interests. Or “I think you’ll be interested in” might be just enough to stimulate reading the article. Or even a casual comment between parents, “I couldn’t believe that article about”—–may catch the youngster’s fancy.
You can “teach” skimming and scanning techniques very quickly with the news sections of the newspaper. Newspaper writers are extremely skilled at writing various levels of headlines and giving the important facts in the first paragraph of the article. Show the youngster that he can first quickly scan, for example, the news section and check those articles he may wish to go back and read in full. This highlights articles that may be important to him and he can then go back and check the opening paragraph to see if it really does hold interest for him.
There are many magazines available either by subscription or at the local newsstand that provide an abundance of enjoyable reading material. Some may seem to be targeted to girls, some to boys, but, happily, in today’s world there are no longer, for the most part, clear demarcations. Your daughter may be just as interested in Popular Mechanics as your son!
Most homes receive through the mail a variety of catalogs which feature all kinds of products. If you allow your child to order one product, it will generate his interest in reading through the catalog. “I’m going to order a few things. Do you see anything you want?” will capture the imagination of the child. If the price goes beyond a certain dollar amount, arrange some sort of equitable split on the cost. (You may want to let the youngster help you fill out the order form-it’s good practice).
Discussion can be encouraged in subtle, gentle ways. After the child has read something, follow it up with, “What do you think? Was he right? I wondered about his conclusions” or some such informal chit-chat to engender a response. For example, if you know your youngster has seen a new movie, and there’s a review of it in the newspaper or current magazine, you might informally discuss his reactions to the review. Does he agree? Disagree? Why?
Small town or neighborhood newspapers are fun to read because of the possibility of reading about someone you know. It should be easy to encourage the child to read the write-up of his school’s special events.-who has been chosen May Queen–or who has left town for the service.
Everyone complains about junk mail. On the other hand, everyone loves to open envelopes and scrutinize their contents. Save your junk mail and let your youngster open and read it. Most junk mail is written and designed for eye appeal and quick-and-easy reading.
A good family activity for a cold or wet winter’s night is to choose a topic and look it up in the family reference books. Let the youngster read it aloud (with help if necessary), and then the family can enter into a discussion. For example, someone might bring up “ants” as a topic. Everyone has been plagued with ants in the house, but what are they really like? What are their modes of living? For example, how fascinating to learn that ants “raise” aphids, corral them, and milk them. Or-are all bird beaks alike? If different why? The possibilities for subjects are endless. And once the resources of the reference book have been exhausted, the child may wish to learn even more on the subject. Here is where the local library can become an important resource. Work with your local librarian (or bookstore manager). These people know what is new and are delighted to make suggestions. Ask them about trends. You may want to offer a bit of information to them about your child’s reading needs and interests and about your role in trying to meet these needs.
A number of hobbies, such as knitting and building model kits, require a fair amount of reading. Encourage these, but stand ready to offer abundant and cheerful help when it becomes necessary. It is important to prevent or eliminate any frustration that may accompany the act of reading. More ground will be lost than can be regained in a long time.
Use those convenience foods. What family doesn’t occasionally resort to putting frozen chicken in the oven? The directions are amazingly simple! Try something like, “Bill, will you put that chicken in the oven! I’ll start the salad. Just read the directions about preheating the oven.” (Not only does this stimulate reading but it can be extremely helpful to the harried homemaker!) another tactic might be, “I can’t read the tiny print (on medicine riles, cereal boxes, and other pack aged items). Will you read it me?” In other words, it doesn’t hurt to be devious!
If the youngster in your family evidences particular interest in a rock star, sports figure, et cetera, suggest that he keep a scrapbook of articles about this person. If you spot an article he’s not likely to read, clip it out and give it to him, saying “Here’s an interesting article for your scrapbook.” You can be sure it will be read.
Study the marketplace for novels or nonfiction books that have been designed especially with the low-level reader in mind. There is now available a large selection of books of high interest-low vocabulary that the young person can read quickly and enjoy thoroughly. You need not urge him to read these books. Just keep them available on the coffee table with the current newspapers and magazines, and chances are great he will pick them up and read them.
Online Newspapers: USA Today Christian Science Monitor ChicagoTribune Detroit News
Los Angeles Times Seattle Times Washington Post