“There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate’s loot on Treasure Island.” – Walt Disney
It would be great if we could wave a magic wand and turn all reluctant readers into engaged ones. What is it that motivates children to want to read and to continue to read, even when there is no reward, grade or condition for doing so? Unfortunately, there is no one program, strategy or reward that will make children want to read.
Early grade literacy is a core component of United Way’s 10-year strategic plan. Reading proficiently by third grade is a key milestone on the road to graduation, and achieving this goal is one way that United Way aims to cut the local high school dropout rate in half by 2024. That’s why we’ve been working diligently in our early grade literacy initiatives to promote engaged reading in a few key areas.
Read Aloud 15 Minutes, Every Day.
Reading aloud to children promotes bonding and instills a greater desire for children to read to themselves. And it can be the most enjoyable part of the day for you and your children. Exposure to different authors, reading levels and genres of books can give your child insight into other cultures, places and new vocabulary.
Provide daily time for children’s recreational reading. Allow children to read anything of their choosing with you or a sibling for just 15 minutes each day. During this time, you’ll enjoy reading and talking with kids about their reading selections.
Interaction. Children need various ways to respond to books, such as writing in journals, dramatizing scenes, creating works of art or simply talking about books. These interactions promote further appreciation of books. This practice is a great way for parents to engage and make strong connections.
Engaged readers view books as the best reward. If we want children to be motivated readers who read for their own purposes, we need to rethink reward programs. If you use incentives, use free books for rewards instead of candy, prizes or points.
Engaged readers need opportunities for social interaction. Have you ever had a friend tell you that you just had to read a particular book because it was so fabulous? Children also need opportunities to tell their friends, teachers and reading tutors how books made them feel.
Integrating technology with reading.
Enter Tutormate: a once a week program for just half an hour with a local first grader that needs help to improve their reading. Volunteers login to a site to use word games, puzzles and stories that help boost skills and confidence from their office or home. Not only does student self-confidence rise, but also students become better readers. Last year 100+ volunteers discovered the positive impact of TutorMate on reading scores, student self-confidence, and increased communication skills.
Read for the Record
On October 27, readers across the country enjoyed reading this year’s selection: The Bear Ate Your Sandwich. We recruit volunteers and partner with schools in under-resourced communities to help children develop the language and literacy skills they need to set them on a path for academic and lifelong success. Watch a short video of local elementary kids performing a fun song during the event:
Read Across America
This special is held annually on a school day closest to March 2nd each year. The day promotes reading for children in schools and libraries where kids are encouraged to read and set reading goals. The day may include reading fairs and other activities that make reading fun for young people. In the past we have celebrated Dr. Seuss to bring out the fun in kids of all ages!
Learn more about our work in early grade reading.