Children learning to read books respond well to adult guidance, patience and understanding. In return, adults typically expect children to daily hard work on learning to read. However, daily willingness put forth by kids toward learning to read is a bigger and wider determiner of success than can be matched by professionals and well-meaning families.
The roles that parents and teachers play for children can make their learning to read a triumph to be celebrated or an ordeal to be endured. Which one it is will impact whether children become lifelong readers and learners or they grow up barely able to read, and rarely choose to do so.
Early on, children must feel encouraged by adults to select to read books they find interesting so they in turn choose every day to read books for their own enjoyment. This encouragement may require significant participation by a child’s family that knows the child and their interests better than their teachers can.
The materials teachers use and the books we choose to offer to children are certainly likely to match the home culture and language of many of our students, but for other children “book English” is far from the familiar language of their home. For a subset of children, the word choice, sentence structure and cultural conventions in their homes will diverge from that presented in school books written for the average child. If collaborating teachers and parents can connect each child with books that are solid matches to their home lives, languages and aspirations, then there is a higher likelihood they will recognize the personal benefits to be derived from choosing to read. Otherwise, for kids who are required to read books with content irrelevant to their lives, there is much more work to be done than for their classmates whose lives and language experiences more completely parallel that found in their books.
Thus, school and home collaboration in book choices is an irreplaceable asset in helping children learn to read.
Another dilemma faced by teachers and parents alike is that young readers often want to read the same kinds of books over and over. But don’t worry! With adult support and patience, at some point kids will want to read something new—a book that a friend has liked or even one that an adult has suggested. And eventually, with well-earned confidence, they’ll begin to identify and read books that are a little challenging without being intimidating, building a path to continuing growth. Then it’s time to celebrate. Lifelong reading and learning begins.