All parents know the benefits of reading. A child’s academic success, and their success in the world, depends heavily on their literacy. Encouraging young readers is critically important. However, according to a survey conducted among 9- and 13- year olds by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), daily reading for entertainment is at the lowest levels since the question was first asked in 1984.
Children are not falling in love with reading, and there are many contributing factors at play. At Arbor, we believe encouraging young readers makes the difference between a child who can read and a child who loves reading, and does it effortlessly and joyfully.
How Montessori Classrooms Encourage Reading
In the Toddler and Primary communities, children are surrounded by a language rich environment. They learn all aspects of language including spoken language, writing, and reading. As children progress to Elementary, they are prepared to immerse themselves in Cosmic Education: the course of study given to the child ages 6 to 12 years old. Children read and synthesize non-fiction text while doing research. They write their own stories, which either they read to others or they allow others to read. There is space in each classroom to read freely chosen text and form their own book clubs to discuss the material.
During the school day, both teachers and students have opportunities to read aloud. For example, before lunch each day, a child reads a poem of their choosing to the class.
Dr. Montessori recognized the power of silence, which is why she developed the Silence Game: a game about having the self-discipline and control to not only silence the body and the mouth, but also to embrace the silence of the mind when the group enters pure silence. Most people are disquieted by silence, often nervously talking to fill any moments of silence. But silence is essential for living things. All elementary classrooms have silent reading time built into their daily routine.
Dr. Montessori said that we are to give the child between ages 6-12 the universe. The Elementary prepared environment is a dual one: the physical classroom with materials and the world at large. There is no way that we can have materials and information on every facet of the universe, and teachers cannot know everything. Going Outs afford the child the opportunity to gather needed information from places and experts. Arbor children take frequent trips to the local library to gather research material, new fiction, and to have opportunities to practice grace and courtesy in our local community.
Encouraging Young Readers at Home
The home environment is a critical component to encouraging young readers. Here are a few ways to encourage reading at home.
Studies have shown that reading aloud has a tremendous impact on a child’s ability to both want to read and to read aloud on their own. Reading aloud to children gives them several advantages, such as a strong and varied “listening vocabulary.” When children begin reading on their own they have a library of sounds, syllables, words, and meanings available to them and can recognize new words more easily. Reading aloud increases attention span, imparts a greater understanding of grammar, tone, and humor, and most importantly creates a strong connection between reading and pleasure. Even once your child begins reading independently, parents should continue read aloud time at home. When reading aloud, select books that are two levels above your child’s grade level, to continue increasing their listening vocabulary and attention span. A minimum amount of reading aloud per day is 15 minutes—there is no maximum!
Model Reading at Home
Children absorb the behavior that is modeled by those around them: what are you reading right now? Parents can encourage young readers by making space for reading in their own day. Let your child see you reading! A book some of our Arbor parents have enjoyed is How to Raise a Reader, by Pamela Paul and Maria Russo.
Diversify Reading Options
Read a variety of literature and poetry to your children. Most of the time, choose books that include well-developed characters, beautifully written sentences, new vocabulary words, and new ideas or facts that stretch the imagination. Graphic novels and some of the short serial books from Scholastic are good choices for after school, car rides, and while waiting at a restaurant. These are also good choices for beginning or reluctant readers, to model how reading should be fun! When reading aloud, you might choose books that have won awards such as the Newbery Medal, the Coretta Scott King Award, or the National Book Award.
Limit Screen Time
The average child in the U.S. engages in 3-5 hours of screen time per day. Aim to turn off screens for at least one hour and choose unplugged activities: reading, board games, outdoor time, etc.
Local and Online Resources
- Shop for new books during Arbor’s Annual Diversity Book Fair, happening right now!
- We love our local book stores: Charis Books & More, Little Shop of Stories, Eagle Eye, Tall Tales Book Shop, Brave + Kind Bookshop
- Be sure to visit your local library, where all the books are free!
- You can find more book lists for young readers at Common Sense Media and Booklist
When reading is second nature, any topic becomes available for children to discover. Elementary aged children devour information at a fantastic rate; they’re desperate to seek out answers to their questions. When they enter this plane as strong readers, they can make the most of their brain’s extraordinary power to collect and store facts.