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One of the first books I remember loving was Charlotte’s Web, by E.B. White. One of my favorite set of lines happens toward the end of the story, when Charlotte is talking to Wilbur: “You will live to enjoy the beauty of the frozen world, for you mean a great deal to Zuckerman and he will not harm you, ever. Winter will pass, the days will lengthen, the ice will melt in the pasture pond. The song sparrow will return and sing, the frogs will awake, the warm wind will blow again. All these sights and sounds and smells will be yours to enjoy, Wilbur — this lovely world, these precious days.”
These precious days. We’re in them right now, even in the midst of a pandemic. And now more than ever, our children need stories like Charlotte’s Web—ones that tell the truth about sorrow and beauty, about heartbreak and hope, about a world full of people whose experiences ring with truth--and bring us comfort or make us laugh and always, always, journey with us through these most precious days.
However, Not Everyone Loves to Read:
Now, let’s be honest. While we might always find you with your nose in a book, not everyone loves to read, and chances are, you are living with some of these readers at your house:
How do you get everyone on board with reading, especially since we know, based on research, that reading is the underpinning for success in every academic discipline? How do we get everyone to participate in the world of wonderful stories and storytelling?
Here are five tips to help all of the readers in your house:
Set aside reading time every day and make that time non-negotiable. Instead of a time goal, set a page goal (5-10 pages, for instance). When the pages are read, they can move on. (Trust me on this one—if you set a minutes goal, the kiddo who doesn’t love to read knows every trick to waste time). Page goals give everyone power.
Think about incentives: trade reading time for minutes to spend watching TV or a trip to the Bahama Bucks drive-through or playtime at the park (social distancing, of course.)
Read WITH your child. Read WITH your child. Read WITH your child. Make a party out of the reading experience—everyone brings a blanket and a book and snuggles together on the couch, reading and snacking and getting lost in the best possible way inside a book.
Let your children pick their own books, when possible. Children will read books that are interesting to them (everything doesn’t have to be challenging or a “classic” or even have literary depth—there’s room in every diet for carrots and cotton candy. Isn’t that a wonderful truth?)
Just keep it sweet and simple. Reading is a chocolate milkshake, not castor oil. The chance to read is a treat, not a battleground. Make your reading time a time of peace.
Our Libraries Are Closed—Where Can We Get Great Books for All Ages?
Now more than ever, we are turning to digital libraries and online resources to provide our reading experiences, and wow—what a wealth of great online resources is available for readers of all ages. I asked my merry band of reading friends for their favorites, and here are their top online reading picks:
www.storylineonline.net : Emmy nominated children’s literature website that streams videos of celebrated actors reading wonderful children’s books + activities to do with each read-aloud. *Rave reviews from multiple teachers and parents.
www.storynory.com : Read-alouds for grades 1-8.
www.getepic.com: Digital library of books and resources for ages 5-12.
www.raz-kids.com: Digital library of books for grades K-5.
www.weareteachers.com: Digital library of authors of children’s and YA books presenting read-alouds + activities.
www.pbs.org: Read-alouds, games, digital storybooks, and so much more. Ages 2-8.
www.wakelit.com: Grades K-12; a comprehensive list of resources for readers of all ages.
www.kidsread.com: Online book club for young readers (book reviews, author profiles, polls, games)
This is a challenging season, and while we have chosen to stay inside, books provide us with powerful stories and unlimited travel destinations. Whether you open a printed book or read online, I pray you have many wonderful reading experiences with your family.
Here’s to reading, and to many more precious days together as we grow up together among the great books.
Jana Anderson is a LCU Assistant Professor of English.