If children are interested in some activity, they will be curious about it, reach out for it, explore it, and if the available support is there, will make progress as they are trying it out. If they maintain their motivation, they will eventually master it to a level of their satisfaction. They will then move on to something else. That works with everything in learning.
For example, as a child freely plays she will see somebody else doing something, anything at all that interests her, and she will want to try it. Long ago my oldest child (about 3 at the time) started cleaning the front of the refrigerator with a sock. He had seen his mother doing that kind of cleaning (not with a sock) and thought he’d give it a try. He did that for a while, decided he didn’t want to do it anymore and wandered off.
Yes, I picked up the sock.
Sharing about the sock reminded me that as a child I got fascinated with needlework and asked my grandmother for a needle and thread to repair a hole in one of my socks. She complied and did some minimal coaching and after a bit I got pretty good at what she called “darning.” That enthusiasm ran its course and I went on next to creating homemade firecrackers with a neighbor friend.
I anticipate that you might recall similar experiences from your childhood, chains of enthusiasms that captured your attention. You engaged for a while and when your zeal was exhausted you found other fascinations to pursue.
All this means that if we create a supportive environment where something cool to do can be observed that captures kids’ attention, and we create room and the necessary “stuff” for them to play, they will make an effort to learn about whatever it is through pure zeal for its fulfilling or delightful potential.*
Yes of course, I’m actually talking about reading. It’s the educator in me!
If children are reading engaging (to them) books and having discussions about their issues and events, they will to continue doing that reading and discussion thing.
Important Message: The easiest teaching you will ever do is to a similarly eager student.
What we must not forget is that if kids progress in reading, or don’t, what is working is their personal fascination and motivation to do that, often despite the quality of instruction. Why? It’s got to be seen as a potentially enjoyable thing that admired others are doing, and if not…
Parents and teachers can foreground fabulous books and shared reading every day. School and local children’s librarians are dying to help out! Offering limited book choices or requiring particular books yield dead end, dull conversations and lifeless interactions. Children may comply, but it is unlikely to add to their literacy or their motivation to take the lifelong path of finding more advanced books to grow on, forever.
* Warning: This basic, motivational principle works with everything, including stuff that might not be good for kids.