The Covid-19 pandemic is impacting every aspect of our lives. One of the most critical areas affected is education. Students are attending class online in addition to spending time on devices playing games, watching movies or checking in with friends. Let’s consider an activity that doesn’t require those devices: reading.
Reading improves focus and concentration, expands knowledge and critical thinking, broadens imagination and creativity, improves vocabulary, motivates us, promotes interest, and provides endless hours of entertainment. Reading also supports writing.
Reading material is not limited to books. We read manuals, brochures, recipes, maps, newspapers, magazines, letters, memos, notes, signs, logos and poems. And charts, graphs, timelines, cartoons, documents, interviews, speeches, plays and reports. That gives us lots of choices. Children and adolescents should choose their own books based on their interests. This is key to encouraging reading and a sense of independence.
How can we inspire kids to start reading?
Here are some suggestions for encouraging children to read, write and read SOME more.
Read aloud: We are never too old to hear someone read aloud. Read to your kids and have them read to you and each other. “You Read to Me, I’ll Read to You” by Mary Ann Hoberman has two parts for reading responsively.
Reader’s theater: This is a style of theater using scripts. Parts are not memorized; they are read aloud with expression. The audience visualizes the action. One to try is based on Jon Scieszka’s book “The True Story of the Three Little Pigs.” You can access scripts online. Write your own script based on a book or even a family event.
Plan a vacation: Have everyone in the family pick a place they think is the best for a vacation. Each person creates a brochure to convince everyone that their selection is the best destination. Present the brochures and vote.
Family read: Take turns picking the time and day, location, what to wear and snacks. Children should see that you are reading, too.
Read under the covers or in a tent: This can be a read aloud or just silent reading time. Make it fun with a miner’s headlamp or flashlight.
Write a new ending to a favorite story individually or together.
Write your own stories together with input from everyone: Or choose a prompt for everyone to respond to, such as your most embarrassing moment, favorite birthday gift, or why we should never have to eat something again.
Read high interest, lower level books: These books contain illustrations, compelling stories and characters, and controlled vocabulary. Graphic novels, poetry, informational books and chapter books in a series are good choices. Get suggestions from teachers and librarians.
Let’s cook!: Prepare a recipe that relates in some way to a book. This activity can be really interesting if the story or nonfiction book is set in another time, country or culture.
The music connection: Explore music from the time or place of the story. Or create your own lyrics to a favorite song, write them out and have a karaoke fest.
The art connection: Look for art related to the story or topic, or create your own illustrations for it.
Write? Right: Write letters to someone — even if you are in the same house. Be sure the recipient responds in writing as well.
Tune in: Read first, then watch the movie. Compare the two versions, which format was better or whether the characters were portrayed as you imagined them.
Listen: Another form of a read aloud, try an audio book to accompany the book being read or just listen to it.
Game night: Play word games like Bananagrams, Boggle or Scrabble individually or in teams!
Follow directions: Write a “how to” and have everyone try it out.
Susan Herron, M.Ed. is an educator and author. She is an avid reader and firm believer in the power of reading.