Among the many benefits of reading, escape is a leading player. In many classrooms, students’ time with books is given the appropriate title, “DEAR” time: Drop Everything And Read. When we do this, we open a door to be transported into a new world, a new perspective, a new land. In times of trouble like we are in now, many people turn to entertainment to keep them sane. We escape into movies and television shows, games and electronics. But there is something especially magical and personal about reading.
Whether your child is bored or stressed, reading is a beautiful cure. While school instruction continues to be delivered via distance learning, students may get several opportunities to better shape their reading lives. Because they are home, teachers have a harder time gauging their actual reading and supporting their reading habits. That’s where you come in!
While at home, a student’s reading life can be fostered, and parents’, too! Consider opening up a new realm in your living room and diving into a new adventure. There are several ways to bring reading into your new quarantined reality, and though reading is often a solo act, there are many ways to make it a bonding opportunity!
Start by investigating your reading personalities!
Although we may read the same books, everyone reads a little differently. Reading preferences and habits differ from person to person. It can help scaffold a students’ reading habits by investigating what kind of reading personality they have. Try taking some short quizzes that provide some insight on this topic. This clever quiz can give students a description of what type of reader they may be. Have some fun navigating this infographic to put a name to your reading style (I’m a compulsive hoarder, myself).
For older students, see how many “Great American Reads” you’ve both completed using this PBS quiz. For younger students, check out this list of 100 best children’s books to see what you’ve read and which you’d like to add to your reading bucket list! Which did you love? Hate? Misunderstand? Abandon? Reread? Share these opinions! It can be an incredible moment of bonding when parents and children share similar favorite titles, but it can be equally exciting when your opinions differ. This opens up the conversation to talk about your own reading styles and preferences!
Once you’ve got a handle of your student’s reading style, start to put together a book wishlist. It can be challenging to stare at a list or shelf of books and come up with a title that is just right. Luckily, the internet has some awesome solutions! For younger readers (infants to tweens), try BookTrust’s Bookfinder! This tool selects recommendations based on age and preferred topics and genres. GoodReads offers excellent recommendations based on books that were enjoyed in the past, favorite genres, and authors. Create a free account and try out GoodRead recommendations for all readers! For a quick search, try out “What Should I Read Next” to curate an extensive list of books based on your favorites!
Consider choosing a book you’d both enjoy and share the experience of reading it together!
Next, explore your options for ebooks, audiobooks, and book delivery during social distancing!
Sadly, libraries have had to close their doors during this time. As much as we readers enjoy scanning the shelves and picking up books to preview, it is simply not a luxury we have during this pandemic. Fortunately, there are other options to acquire books safely. Your first stop can be your local library’s website to browse their digital collections. Many libraries offer online ebook and audiobook rentals free with a library card. Your child’s school library likely offers similar options.
If you are looking at an older book that may now be in the public domain (and is therefore typically free), check out this list of 25 sources for free public domain ebooks. If you are interested in audiobooks in the public domain, Librivox is an excellent option.
For other ebooks outside of public domain, take a look at TCK Publishing’s list of the 10 best ebook apps.
If you’d really like to get your hands on a physical book, ThriftBooks is one of many book vendors offering delivery during this time. Thriftbooks has a comforting message about the extra precautions being taken to ensure safe products and delivery available on their homepage.
Start reading together!
Perhaps Strickland Gillilan said it best in his poem “The Reading Mother” when he wrote “You may have tangible wealth untold; / Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold. / Richer than I you can never be — ; I had a Mother who read to me.”
Reading aloud, parent and child, is an irreplaceable experience. It makes the book have that much more resonance and your common language that much greater. Understandably, we do not all have that time in our schedule. If this is the case, try setting aside just 20 minutes in the morning or at night to settle down and share a few pages. Otherwise, set up a reading partnership and allow yourselves to read the same book independently, conversing throughout the day.
Now is a great time to share your favorite novels with your children and to relive them yourself! If your child is currently reading a book for school, consider reading along with them so you can share a common experience.
Having a hard time convincing your child to buy in? Try getting them interested by selecting a book that has been adapted into a movie or series! IMDB has curated a lengthy list of books with movie adaptations (movies included for children, teens, and adults). Set up a reading schedule and arrange a movie night to see how writers and directors interpreted the same story in unique ways! Or, grab a book whose movie adaptation you’ve already seen and do this in reverse.
You may also want to set your student up with a book club.
There are many opportunities to create your own book club whether it be within the family or with your child’s peers. Now is a great time to build a reading community in order to bolster those (safe) social connections we are lacking during social distancing. Brightly, a Penguin Random House company, has many resources on selecting and supporting a book club environment for your student. Scholastic also offers some tips and tricks on creating a family book club as well as additional resources to engage your child in book club activities. The School Library Journal just recently published a great read on running a virtual book club with your middle schoolers, but this can be adapted for many learning levels.
The goal is to establish a community of readers so that reading is not just a solo act. Talking about a book with others can help boost critical thinking skills, build empathy, and improve social skills. With a common topic, children and teens can engage in meaningful conversations and exciting debates while reinforcing the power of reading with each other!
Overall, aim to establish new or better reading habits.
It is important to lead by example. Asking children to read before bed is one thing, but sitting down and reading a book at the same time, whether out loud or independently, can speak volumes for your learner. Maybe setting aside a time to turn off devices and read in a common space works for your schedules now, when it may not have before. Maybe reading more habitually is something you can foster in your child now by checking in on their reading or sharing a common reading experience.
Think about setting reading goals with your child. This can be done in many ways. One way is to figure out their reading pace. Have your child read for 10 minutes, then record the number of pages they read. Convert this number into a 30 minute reading pace by multiplying by three, or an hour reading pace by multiplying by 60. Having an idea of how many pages, on average, can be read in those time spans allows students to set reasonable goals for page numbers. They can then decide on a date to finish their book in order to keep up with others reading it.
You may also consider creating a “reading nook” in your house. It does not need to be elaborate by any means. Simply set aside a corner or a chair where your child feels comfortable and not distracted. This can be a nice repreive from the areas where they complete their schoolwork or use their devices.
Finally, celebrate reading accomplishments!
Even if it is one small step - choosing a book that is interesting, reading for 20 minutes straight, finishing a book for the first time in a while - be sure to celebrate these accomplishments. In the end, we want to raise readers in order to expose children to different perspectives, lives, and situations. We want to support thinkers and problem-solvers and set them up for a successful future.
Reading can open so many doors, and we now have the time to help our learners prop them open!