By LeVar Burton, Co-Founder Reading Rainbow Kidz, Actor/Producer
The words "Family Education" and "Reading" can never be separated. No matter what course we choose in life, being comfortable with the written word is an imperative fundamental element of being human. As adults, we are aware that through reading we gain knowledge at work and about our world. In business we communicate through email more often than through voice and in person. For pleasure, we all know a great book provides escape and exploration in ways television and movies never can. It's how we communicate as humans.
Children have not yet learned the overarching lifelong value being a "reader" brings them. They often see it as an arduous difficult task to learn, being forced on them by parents and teachers. Whether home, public or private schooled, being educated requires not only being taught the solid fundamental skill of reading, but also developing a love for reading.
So when your child is not a natural reader or struggles and "hates" it, what can we do? My first advice has always been this: Make sure your kids see YOU reading. If you always have a book open somewhere, as my mother did, reading becomes like breathing, a part of life. Also, find something they want to read, in the manner they want to read it, and let them do it! Comic books, often thought of as a "lowly" form of reading, is in fact, a fantastic way of getting kids to want to read. So it's not Shakespeare… so what? Once they start enjoying reading, they will eventually move into more complicated tomes. Barbie's Adventures at the Zoo? Again, great! Sports stats? It may not be a story, but it is reading. When they find something they like, reading becomes "pulled" by them vs. "pushed" by us.
One method I used at home with my kids to get them involved in reading is creating, either in conversation, in pictures or in writing, what happened "next" in a story. When the book ended, what do you think happened next to the Cat in the Hat? Engage their imaginations in ways that connect them to what they read. Make it a two way street.
We all imagine our kids will take to books like we did. However many kids are not like that, and in fact as some of our own parents may remind us, we may not have either at their age. It's a process. To get your children to "take a look, it’s in a book" requires patience and understanding that with easy, comfortable motivation, they will become the readers they need to be… and that is the greatest educational gift you can ever make as a family.
But you don’t have to take my word for it….
LeVar Burton and Reading Rainbow’s mission is to inspire a love of reading in children and connect them to the world they live in through quality literature so they believe that they can "go anywhere, be anything."