Tips to make your child a better reader over the holidays
Parenting during this global pandemic was not easy. Whether it’s helping our young people get used to personal learning again or dealing with the realities that COVID-19 continues to expose for them, their classmates and our community, we parents have worked overtime to address the dual priorities to reconcile our working life and the learning life of our students.
As the holiday season starts, I hope that, like me, you will take some time to reflect. Please take stock of what we have been through and acknowledge that as parents / guardians, despite all the moving parts in our children’s academic lives and the imbalance they face in society, we do a pretty good job.
As an elementary school English teacher for over 26 years and the mother of an extraordinary young black person, I plan to spend this holiday season remembering my blessings. In the remaining time, I’ll give my son a tight hug and do a little bit of work to improve his skills as a competent reader.
In addition to working with my son, I want to encourage other parents to make their children better readers. As the African saying goes, “It takes a village to raise a child.” I have some amazing people in my village and those of us who are parents deserve the same. So consider me the English teacher in your village.
As an English teacher, the most important piece of advice I can give parents is to model the behavior they want to see. This is one of my greatest challenges. How can we ask our children to read more books if we don’t spend at least five minutes of our day doing it?
As a single mom who worked from home while my son Zoom went to school, we didn’t have many opportunities to read together. Even though we were both at home, crossing often and getting on our nerves, the tiredness of staying at home was real. And like most families, my son and I took it easy and found solace in our electronic devices and video games.
So over this vacation I plan to read some books in the hope that my son will model my behavior and experience the joy and happiness that come with opening a good book.
The good news here is that my favorite thing to do is read.
Aside from just modeling behavior, here are some other techniques that I will use with my student to maintain and strengthen their reading skills. Please do the same with yours.
Take time to read together. I will read with my son every day during the holiday season. There will be moments when we will read different books. Sometimes we read the same book. There will also be moments when I ask my son to read aloud and ask him questions about what he has read.
Remember, reading is a team sport! When our babies read aloud, we should point them to familiar sightwords – common words that schools expect them to recognize right away. Have them point out unfamiliar words as well and encourage them to make informed conclusions about what those words mean based on contextual cues.
Read to your scholarship holder. I also plan to read to my young scholar. I urge you to do the same. As you read to them, be sure to change your voice on each character to make it exciting and fun. Nothing is more boring than a monotonous reading voice. Trust me!
Let them choose the book. During the break, I encourage my son to find books on topics that interest him. The trick is to instill your child’s love of reading with books and characters that will delight them. For some of our babies, it’s a love of basketball. For others, it’s fashion design or video games. For my little one, it’s manga and everything about WWII – so we ordered yesterday They call us enemies through George Takei and Dear Martin through Nic Stone.
If we let our young people read what they want during this holiday season, they may fall in love with the reading time instead of dreading it or calling it boring.
Hire them to write. Being a good reader also means being able to understand and write. With all of the things that need to be bought, taken out of the closet, and strung together, making a list and writing down tasks will be crucial. And since a parent / legal guardian has to have at least six hands, my son will be two of them.
Equipped with a pen and pad, he becomes my official scribe. And this is how it works: Instead of memorizing everything you have to do every day, write tasks from your junior researcher in full sentences and create shopping and to-do lists that need to be spelled perfectly. When they can’t spell a word, force them to look it up the old school way: in a physical dictionary.
As an incentive, the scribe is a paid position.
Get the family involved. As we return to a full or partial family reunion this season, I plan to use my son’s godmother, cousins, grandparents, and friends as teaching assistants for the mission of the better readers.
I will let the whole family know what my son is reading and encourage them to ask him questions about the characters, the plot, and his favorite part of the book. This family engagement underscores the idea that reading is a team sport and signals to my young learner that it is important for the whole family.
Our students, like us, have been through a lot in the past two years. They have processed the trauma of surviving a global pandemic. They encountered the realities of blackness in America and managed to return to face-to-face learning with all the stress and strain that comes with a more digitally connected school environment.
A little bit of learning enrichment during the holiday season will make a big difference. Quality Time will show our scholarship holders that you pay attention to their needs. I know the above tips will make a difference for my son, and I hope you will use them to help your young scholar too.
Another piece of advice from the English teacher in your village: To become a reader for life, you need to put a little love into reading.
I hope the tips will help. It’s the time of year to read!
Cecily Myart-Cruz is an English teacher with over 25 years of teaching experience. Myart-Cruz has served as President of United Teacher Los Angeles for the past two years. Since assuming this role, her focus has been on raising the voices of educators and making sure that Los Angeles classrooms are a safe, welcoming, and thriving place for all students. Follow her on social media @UTLANow.
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