"If you don't like reading, you just haven't found the right book," J. K. Rowling stated. Dr. Seuss said, "The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go."
For many kids today, though, there's a lot of competition from television shows, movies, and video games. If you want your student to become a lifelong reader and writer, you'll need some ways to make these skills fun. Here are 10 ways to make reading and writing fun.
- Make it just for fun. Remember that children don't need to be challenged every time they pick up a book or write a sentence. While they will learn, sometimes the objective should just be recreation – they need the chance to read a book for no reason except to absorb the joy of a great story.
- Forget the reading level. For example, your child's teacher may have told you that your child is reading at a third-grade level, but that doesn't mean he/she must do so all the time. Most likely, third-grade is his instructional level – the level at which he/she can read with 90% accuracy and answer questions correctly 80% of the time. This is a challenging level for your child, and he or she will probably need help from you or another adult to be successful at this level. Let your child choose books that are at an independent level – where he/she reads the words at 95% accuracy and can answer every comprehension question correctly – when reading for pleasure. And don't stop your child from reading at those upper, frustration levels, either. If he or she is interested enough in the book, your child will persevere; if he/she finds it to be too much, just let your child know that it's okay to stop reading and save that book for later.
- Read out loud. Research shows that reading out loud to and with children is the single most effective test preparation program you can use (Jim Trelease, "The Read-Aloud Handbook"). Don't stop reading books aloud just because your child has learned to read alone, and make sure you include all the funny voices and sound effects. If he/she is resistant to a bedtime story, then regularly share a bit of something you're reading – a line or two from your book, or a paragraph from a news article. Continue to read aloud together until your child leaves home – or longer!
- Create an awesome reading spot. Use a large hoop and a shower curtain or shimmery fabric to make a reading tent or paint an appliance box to create a reading cave. Stock the tent or cave with comfortable pillows and good lighting.
- Encourage your child to write in a journal, but don't limit the writing to diary-style entries. Books like "Unjournaling: Daily Writing Exercises That Are NOT Personal, NOT Introspective, and NOT Boring!" and "If You're Trying to Teach Kids How to Write, You've Gotta Have This Book" provide easy, fun writing prompts to make it entertaining to pull out that journal. Give your child the chance to write something that doesn't remotely resemble school-style writing; let him/her write a story about a girl named Dot without using any words with dot-letters (i, j), one of the prompts from "Unjournaling."
- Write with your child. At the top of two sheets of paper, write the beginning of a sentence. Set a timer for one minute (or two); during that time, both of you should pick up the story from the stopping point in the sentence. When the timer goes off, stop writing, even if you're in the middle of a word. Exchange papers, take a few seconds to read what the other person has written and then start the timer again while you each pick up the story and take it to the next stage.
- Don't correct the grammar, syntax, or other errors in fun writing. There's plenty of time for that later; for now, focus on having fun with the story or poem. School writing will take care of the revising and editing processes.
- Provide fun pencils, pens, and paper for writing. While those aren't practical for class assignments, they're perfect for personal journals and fun writing activities. Encourage your child to create an art journal with illustrations and a lot of color, stickers, and other embellishments.
- Let your child read in any format he or she chooses. As Stephen Fry pointed out, "Books are no more threatened by Kindle than stairs by elevators." If ebooks work well for your child, that's great; if graphic novels pull him or her in, stock up on them. Even picture books reinforce reading skills like using context clues, sequencing, and finding main ideas.
- Finally, keep in mind what C. S. Lewis said: "No book is really worth reading the age of ten which is not equally – and often far more – worth reading at the age of fifty and beyond." Let your child see you reading for pleasure, and consider making some of your reading material children's books or young adult fiction. Modeling is a strong teacher, and knowing that you choose to read when you don't have to sends a powerful message. And reading those children's books gives you an easy chance to share a great book!