The new year is a great time to set fresh goals for the upcoming months, or resolve to persevere on past commitments. One of our primary purposes at Providence is to develop readers – children who not only know how to read well but enjoy reading and make time for it. As we all know, this goal is becoming increasingly more challenging with competition from so many wonderful technological devices, but it’s never too late to develop good habits.
Several years ago, the National Endowment of the Arts conducted a survey of reading trends that highlighted the ominous decline of reading habits in both children and adults. After sharing the results of their comprehensive study, they provided three research-based recommendations to parents.
- Read to your children – not just when they are 3 or 4 years old. Read to them. Read to them at night, read to them as a family, read great books even to your older children.
- Read yourself – There is a strong correlation between the amount of reading a parent does and the type of reader his or her child becomes. Do your children see you reading? Do they see a love of books in the home? Do we as parents encourage reading?
- Buy books and build a home library – The study found a direct correlation between the number of books in the home and the reading proficiency of children. It crosses all socio-economic boundaries, and the mere presence of books in the home cultivates future readers.
While we acknowledge that cultivating readers can be more challenging given the numerous distractions of the digital age, the task is not new. Aristotle wrote in Nicomachean Ethics, “The soil must have been previously tilled if it is to foster the seed, the mind of the pupil must have been prepared by the cultivation of habits, so as to like and dislike aright.” Building good habits begins early, as indicated by the findings in the NEA study.
In our new Cultivating a Strong Partnership document that we introduced at the State of the School meeting, we emphasize the importance of “Shared and Agreed upon goals.” In that document, we write, “Read to children, with them and in front of them. Encourage children to read beyond the classroom requirement so that they understand that reading is not about school, but about learning, growing, and stewarding the mind God has given them.”
To this end, here are five more ideas to help develop a love of reading in our children:
- Set reading goals and share them with family members. Research shows that we are more likely to achieve results if we set goals and share them with others.
- Listen to audio books in the car. Particularly on long trips, these can be fun experiences for the whole family.
- Read the same books your children are reading. The Providence curriculum includes great literature, many of which we parents haven’t yet had the privilege of reading.
- Purchase books for gifts and encourage your children to build their own libraries.
- Practice a family “read-in.” Power off the electronic devices, buy some good snacks, and dedicate some quiet family time to reading.