Written by contributor Jena Borah of Yarns of the Heart
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Did you know the best way to help your kids become better readers is to let them read what they want? Research supports it, my reading professors echoed it, and in fact, The Illinois Reading Council Journal published two articles on the topic this quarter.
The secret to this simple teaching method is intrinsic motivation. If students want to read the material, they spend more time and try harder, figuring out ways to understand. As a result, they invent comprehension strategies that are personally meaningful and the information is more likely to stick with them.
One of the articles that caught my eye this month is “The Effect of Time Spent Reading During Intervention Block,” by Jennifer Lawler and Linda Wedwick. In it they reviewed past studies as well as described their own and concluded that allowing students time to “just read” led to increased reading levels. Another article by Melissa Stinnett called “Adolescent Reading Within Online Games” described students reading several grade levels above their normal levels simply because they were motivated to learn more about online games.
I love finding information like this. It’s hard to accept that kids can learn and grow without direct instruction from adults, but educators continue to offer evidence that it’s true.
I taught my kids this way, and it was a lot of fun. We enjoyed exploring the library, looking for whatever interested them. I didn’t limit them to books at their reading level (though we did hang out in the children’s section the most). Once they settled into a section of books, I’d leave them alone, then help them carry their treasures home.
As parents and teachers, we think we have to micromanage our kids’ brains. But really, if they are allowed just a little time every day to find a book that interests them, sit down and read it, the things they accomplish will astound us.
When Peter (my oldest) left the ACT exam, he said, “I think I got a few wrong, but it was pretty easy. Those reading passages were so interesting! I wish there were more of them.”
He was a seasoned veteran of dealing with difficult, above-grade-level texts, and he knew just what to do with them because he had done it many, many times before.
That skill led to a high score that got him a full ride scholarship to college, graduating with honors, and a job that has him deciphering complicated legal issues–and he continues to fearlessly tackle whatever interests him.
How do you feel about giving your kids time to “just read”?