Encouraging children to read at a young age offers benefits that last through their life.
Educators witness advantages that range from building a strong vocabulary to developing positive feelings about reading. At school age, children are very impressionable and become interested in what their parents are doing. This time is an opportunity to build that love of reading.
It sounds like an easy task, but it is more complicated than it would seem. A desire to learn everything can be a curse; it can be difficult to encourage young readers to focus long enough to read. Or to be interested in a passive activity when there is running around to do and games to play. Convincing children that reading a book is fun may seem like a monumental task. With the right incentives, a child reading a book on his own could occur more frequently than you think.
Building an internal desire to read is the most significant motivator when it comes to reading for pleasure. We have discussed the benefits of external motivators previously. They work well when used appropriately, but they do not substitute that inner fire for reading.
The goal is to encourage children to take the initiative out of a desire to read.
- Grab a book off the bookshelf out of love,
- Ask for books to be read in class,
- Take a trip to the school library,
- Bring their books to class for show and tell, and
- Allow them to read some selections out of it. Or read it to the class for them!
These are all opportunities to build that internal flame. They are reading, and being read to, because they love to read.
That devotion to reading will require effort from teachers and parents. One of the most significant ways to show a child that reading is a delight is through example. In school, if students are working quietly in class, read a book. It is a great way to give the mind a little break while demonstrating reading for fun!
If a student asks what you are reading, it is an opportunity to give them a brief description of the book. See what piques their interest as far as themes, subjects, and styles. Experimenting with different books is a great way to probe their interests. Bringing those topics to different lessons can keep their interest longer when trying to teach subjects like science and history.
No class of students is going to agree on one topic. This difference of opinion provides an opportunity to give them some control over the stories enjoyed in the classroom. It does not have to be a wide range of material; two or three books are more than enough for young students. Allowing the class to vote on the book, or giving students a choice as a reward, is another motivator. Those decisions will be part of the lesson, possibly introducing students to new books or topics!
Strategies like this work in the home too. Allow them to see you reading at the kitchen table in the morning or before they go to bed at night. Ask them to grab their book and join you. Children love to do activities with their parents, and this will encourage them to do it more often. Discussing the book as they are reading helps with their vocabulary and their understanding of the story. These are simple activities that reinforce to them that reading is something they want to do!
Intrinsic motivations drive children, and most people, more than external ones. Vansteenkiste, Lens, and Deci did a study in 2006 that found that learning done for private interest encourages a deeper understanding of the material as well as a desire to find out more. It develops good learning habits early, with an impact that will help them grow through the rest of their lives.
Kids Read Now, a local non-profit organization dedicated to building literacy rates for young people across the country, announced it has moved to a new location in Troy, Ohio to accommodate its rapidly expanding summer book-reading operations.
On Dec. 15 Kids Read Now completed its move from a smaller shared space on the east side of Troy into a 16,000 square-foot property it will lease at 155 Marybill Drive. The larger facility will allow the organization to add up to 20 more employees, including four to six permanent employees over the next year, as well as 12 warehouse seasonal workers for the busier spring and summer months.
Currently among the top three literacy programs in the country, Kids Read Now expects to become the largest provider of summer reading materials for kids in kindergarten through third grade. The Kids Read Now business model is different than traditional summer reading programs that require kids to travel to libraries, camps or other community reading centers to access books. Instead, Kids Read Now sends books directly to students’ homes. After students finish reading one book, Kids Read Now sends out another one through the mail. And the best part — students get to keep all of the books they read during the summer for free.
Since its inception in 2010, the Kids Read Now summer reading program has helped tens of thousands of children. In 2017 alone, Kids Read Now distributed more than 80,000 books to more than 12,000 children in 34 school districts. Kids Read Now expects to increase that total to 50,000 children in 2018 and to 500,000 students in school districts across the country within three years.
“Moving into this larger space matches our business goals to expand our summer reading program significantly over the next few years,” said Leib Lurie, who founded the program along with Barbara Lurie. “We were fortunate enough to find a facility in Troy that meets our current needs yet offers flexibility for growth as we continue to attract more school districts into our summer reading program.”
Industrial Property Brokers represented both buyer and seller in completing the deal. Tim Echemann, a Broker for the company, said, “We are pleased to be able to help Kids Read Now relocate to a facility with the right space and amenities to suit their growing operation. The new location has the added benefit of a property owner who supports the Kids Read Now mission and vision.”
Industrial Property Brokers, located in Piqua, Ohio, is a premier full-service real estate company offering sales, leasing, investment analysis, tenant representation, and property management throughout Western Ohio and Eastern Indiana. For more information on this or other properties, visit www.IPBindustrial.com or call 937-492-4423.
For more information about Kids Read Now, visit kidsreadnow.org or call Mary Beth Reser at 937-681-2185.
The constant concern of parents and educators alike is an addiction to glowing rectangles.
From the pocket-friendly cell phone to the new 60-inch plasma screen in the living room, the digital world is always beckoning. Studies show that by the age five, children are spending an average of six and a half hours a day in front of a screen. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) revised their rules for screen times for two to five-year-olds recently. One supervised hour of screen time a day can help them learn new vocabulary. This is not the most efficient way of teaching young children new words. That comes from a much older technology: ink on paper.
When children are using screens, it is rarely for reading. An Australian study showed that even when a device had eReading capabilities on it, they often went unused. In fact, they were often distracted from reading by other capabilities on the device, like surfing the Internet or playing games.
These constant breaks in concentration reduce the amount of information they are absorbing. The more they used devices to read, the less interested they were in reading and the more they wanted to use the other capabilities of the device. It reduced the amount of information they were absorbing from the book. This is not how good readers get their start.
Another major drawback to children reading on tablets is the amount of interaction with people around them. The Conversation did some research on their own. The outlet found that when a parent reads with their child on an eReader, the child does not get as much from experience. There is no appreciable difference in what the child retains. The difference comes from the interaction between the two. Because of the design of an eReader or tablet, children become more focused on the device and not the person reading with them. When they are reading from a book, the two laugh and discuss the story much more.
That interaction gives the edge to the traditional book for teaching young ones how to read. Many applications and programs can help kids build their reading skills through engaging children. Not just by reading, but by saying the words out loud and showing images, so the concept becomes associated with an image. Tools like this rely on stimulating other senses but need a parent or teacher there to reinforce the learning. Handing a young reader a digital device does not provide the same engagement in learning that sitting and working with them does. It does not create that warm, positive bond that associates reading and spending time with a parent.
Digital teaching and learning tools may be receiving a major media push, but traditional books are still the preferred way of reading. Ebooks have made inroads into the literary world, but sales of physical books are growing. That includes the growth of children’s books by 16% in 2016. Books, their vivid colors, tactile pages, and the ability for two people to engage in reading at the same time, remain the best way to introduce children to literacy.
Strategies to get students to read more have many similarities to strategies for getting children to eat more vegetables.
Much like vegetables, when it comes to getting children to read, giving them the ability to choose what they want to learn will get them to read more. Choices, like reaching for carrots instead of chips, put children into a situation where they are encouraged to perform the task that is better for them makes them more interested in doing the work.
A 2010 article by Jenna Cambria and John Guthrie offer choice as one of the key motivating factors for getting students to read.
This is not to say that everything they read has to be their choice. Lessons can be broken down to give students options for how they approach the material. What character are we going to read about today? Which lesson are we going to learn? Who wants to be the reader for specific pages?
Offering choices give a certain amount of ownership. The teacher is still controlling the direction of the class, but the students have a small say. That small investment keeps them interested in the subject at hand.
Reading about something they have selected keeps students motivated on the topic. Required reading can be a drag. It is a challenge to keep students moving forward in a book they show no interest. Even if the book is required reading, there are ways to give students a choice. Like becoming an expert on one of the topics or characters. This gives them some power over the assignment, giving them the encouragement to keep reading.
When students have the opportunity to read for pleasure, offering a wide selection of books is critical. Children today have dozens of options for how they can spend their time. Choosing the books they want to read puts that activity to the top of the list. Spending time reading for pleasure, on a topic they enjoy, encourages them to read more. More frequent reading offers a wide variety of benefits, including building a more extensive vocabulary. While having a library in the home is ideal, introducing students to the school library and the public library will help with that diversity of options.
When students read, they want the experience to be more than a required activity they have to perform. The material they are reading should be something they enjoy, not a checkmark in a box. They do not want it to be eating their vegetables because they have to. Vegetables are best when they taste good or make the meal better. Giving the students choice in what they read, either in the narrow terms of a lesson or the full range of shelves in a library, bring students closer to becoming readers that are always looking for their next book!
When children create Christmas lists in September and October, how many books make their way on those lists?
If the student is an avid reader, probably quite a few. Otherwise, most parents would be hard pressed to find one sample of literature found wrapped under a tree on December 24th. However, that is not the story in all parts of the world. The small island of Iceland has made a tradition of giving books over the holidays. In fact, it is such a popular event they have a name for it: jólabókaflóð.
Jólabókaflóð translated into English is “Christmas book flood.” Iceland did not gain its independence from Denmark until World War II. When it did, there was not much to do. With the world deep into war, most resources were limited.
Paper was one of the few resources to which Icelanders had ample access. Meaning products made of paper, like books, became a focus in Icelandic culture. Around September, lists of books begin to trickle out around the country, cumulating in the entire nation receiving the Bókatíðindi, “Book Bulletin” in English.
Until very recently, this massive book release was more necessity that treasure. The resources to publish all of these books did not exist until late in the year. Now the full bulletin is sent out in mid-November during the Reykjavik Book Fair. This is a list of every book published in the country at the time. And while you may think that there cannot be that many books published by 335K people, you would be surprised.
Reykjavik was named a UNESCO City of Literature in 2011. It is a designation they more than earned. A study in 2013 by Bifröst University showed that over fifty percent of Icelanders read at least eight books a year. Over 90% of the population reads at least one book a year.
There may be only 200,000 people in Reykjavik, but in 2009 they checked out over 1.2 million books. Iceland is a country that loves their books and loves to read. If they are not reading books, they are writing them; 50 percent of the people in the country will have a book they wrote published. Even with all of these writers, the number of books published is relatively small. In 2011, there were 350,000 books published in the United States; in Iceland there was 842. Put in terms of population, the rate Icelanders publish books is double what it is in the U.S.
Of course, this flood makes for a great night on Christmas Eve. On that day, everyone exchanges books and spends the rest of the evening reading with a drink to warm them up. The book you will receive as a gift will be a physical, hardbound book. The Icelanders cherish their books, so much so that e-readers are few and far between. Even the paperback, a staple of international book publishing, only became popular in the 21st century. When you give the gift of a book, it is a gift that is going to last.
Why not adopt a tradition like this into a classroom setting?
Host a white elephant where everyone brings a favorite book to share on the last day of school before winter break! This gives students a chance to give books they love away for other students to enjoy while freeing up some space on the bookshelf at home. After the exchange, spend some time in class either reading one of the books to the students or giving the students quiet time to read one of their new gifts. It is a fun way to end the first half of the year and associates the act of reading to a pleasurable experience.
Kids Read Now, a 501C(3) nonprofit, was founded in 2010 to expand summer learning and eliminate the summer reading slide. Since its creation, this summer reading program has made an impressive impact on the tens of thousands of children that have participated. They have received books that they choose weekly, encouraging them to read by giving them material that interests them. Impacts that large are difficult to hide, and people have been taking notice. The Clinton Global Initiative was one of the first to recognize the outcomes of this program, followed by South by Southwest (SXSW). We are pleased to announce that we have been recognized by another group and have formed a national partnership with the National Summer Learning Association (NSLA) to spread the program to a broader audience and help even more students become lifelong readers.
The NSLA, also a 501C(3) nonprofit, is no stranger to the achievement gap. They started working with students in Baltimore in 1992, helping disadvantaged students stay motivated to learn. In 2001 they expanded and became the Center for Summer Learning at Johns Hopkins University, and then the NSLA in 2009. Their mission is “to deliver high-quality summer learning opportunities to our nation’s children and youth that help close the achievement gap and support healthy development.” They collaborate with local programs to make them more efficient and more affordable to the communities they serve. Not only do they work hard at the grassroots level, but they build national awareness of the issue. This effort pushes more resources into school districts to help all students keep pace with their peers. Their focus includes monitoring policies that could impact funds directed to those that cannot afford the loss.
Our NSLA partnership’s goal is to make our program more affordable to school districts that serve rural and urban populations. These two groups see the most challenges when it comes to accessing quality learning opportunities over the summer. In addition to the partnership with the NSLA, Kids Read Now is also working with the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation (GKCCF) on a multi-year, 1 million dollar research grant which will further help school districts afford our turnkey program. Our program is also eligible for any Title I funding received from the government. We are always looking for ways to bring the proven, data-driven results of our work to any school district in need. One of our most important partnerships is with the communities that benefit from having children that are passionate about reading and education.
As we see the costs to school districts fall, we witness the number of students helped dramatically increase. In 2017 alone, our dedicated staff distributed over 80,000 books to over 12,000 children in thirty-four school districts. By the time we get to 2019, with the help of the NSLA and GKCCF, we are anticipating serving over four times that number. We have started in three states, and with the help of our partners, are looking forward to expanding and aiding more of our neighbors in the near future. Kids Read Now is honored work with the NSLA to support their goal of building more successful students through summer learning.
The number of elements it requires to build students into lifelong learners is breathtaking. It takes the commitment of parents, teachers, principals, local leaders, and the determination of the students to stay on a path that turns reading into a hobby instead of a hurdle. Without the basic building blocks of reading, books, all that effort is for naught. A variety of books is critical; as a home library builds, having books for all seasons and moods is essential for a young reader. It is essential for ANY reader.
Studies show that as literacy builds for one child in the home, other members of the family, from sibling to parents, show more interest in reading. Oxford academic journals show overwhelming evidence, as part of a global survey, that easy access to books is a crucial element to building readers. It is one of the driving forces behind why Kids Read Now distributes so many books to students in need around the country.
Our program receives such impressive results because of the number of books delivered to our students. Thousands of books are sent to homes every summer, building those in home libraries. Because of the generosity of our supporters, we have warehouses full of books. Books that explore all topics, from historical events to comic book heroes. That has provided us the ability to help more than just the homes of the students that are part of the program. Kids Read Now has been able to help the schools these children attend as well.
We have been seeing the number of students, and schools, that have participated in stopping the summer reading slide increasing over the years. Last summer, we were able to support those schools by building their libraries. Our program donated 100 brand new books to seventy elementary schools in Ohio. Those books help over 12,000 students, giving them more reading options. The more options children have when they want to pick up a book, the more likely they are to reach for one as a source of entertainment. We have seen it in our research; those 12,000 students have read over 80,000 books, close to seven books per student!
Our access to low-cost books has benefitted students in need outside of the Buckeye State. When Hurricane Harvey ripped through Houston, many of its schools were devastated. Some were able to open in mid-September, some were facing the prospect of never reopening again. The reasons for permanent closure ranged from overwhelming structural damage to loss of educational resources, including whole libraries. Kids Read Now was able to help one of those schools that were in danger stay open by donating over 2,500 books, preventing Texas from being forced to close it.
The staff and volunteers at Kids Read Now know the importance that books play in the lives of children, and those who are educating them. As our program grows, we are helping more and more students not just for one summer, or even two. By providing one of the fundamental building blocks of literacy, books, schools and families can build libraries. Libraries that are offering easy access to tales that entertain and educate families. Kids Read Now is thankful that we can play a small part in developing literacy in so many communities.
A variety of elements go into building strong readers.
Access to books is crucial, not only in the classroom but at home. Keeping students engaged in reading on a year-round basis is a proven way to keep their reading levels on par with peers. Developing lifelong readers can even help the families improve literacy. But like building any system, all of these improvements require funding.
With the majority of schools in Ohio losing state funds or receiving no increases, finding that money may become more difficult over the next two years.
Fortunately, the state was awarded a 35 million dollar Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy Grant from the U.S. Department of Education, helping to boost those shortfalls.
This grant was created to provide schools with the funds to help students with low literacy scores. The funding applies to students from preschool to 12th grade. The award will be available for three years to provide resources to help students with disabilities, those where English is a second language and those living in poverty.
The state earned the grant by developing a plan that would put this money to the best use. Part of the funds will be going to into the Get It, Got It, Go! program the state has been using for the last six years. The program was developed by the University of Minnesota to assess early indicators of a student’s literacy in preschool.
Other programs in the state, like the Early Childhood Advisory Council, utilize the funds for the most significant impact on young learners.
Ultimately, students are going to see a big boost from this grant. More than 95% of the funds ($33.25 million) will be going directly to the schools. This grant, combined with the improvements made with the Third Grade Reading Guarantee, will improve the reading levels at a young age.
This stage of development for children is critical for building critical lifelong literacy skills. Other funds distributed through the year include Title I money and grants through charities that can provide even more support for districts.
Currently, the state is working on the application process. They are looking to offer the applications, as well as a website to help with the process, late in 2017.
In 2014, the state of Ohio instituted the Third Grade Reading Guarantee.
Created in 2012 by local state Senator Peggy Lehner, this program is designed to ensure that students are underperforming in reading receive resources to help.
Students in public and public charter schools need to pass their third-grade reading proficiency test with a 77% before they are allowed to move to fourth grade reading. Failing that test means they have to stay with third-grade reading, but can be promoted to fourth grade in other subjects. This effort came after a decade of stagnant test growth by fourth graders. While it may seem like this legislation was enacted to boost test scores, there are much more important reasons to push students to read well by third grade.
Many educators, and other experts in the field, recognize third grade as a critical time for students. This time in their education is when they switch from “learning to read” to “reading to learn.”
In Ohio, many school districts end reading classes after the third grade, though some extend them to fourth grade. Students who are not reading at grade level by the third grade are more four times less likely to graduate from school. Poor students who cannot read at grade level by that time are thirteen times less likely to graduate, according to a 2011 study by the American Educational Research Association. These are some daunting numbers, but there is a silver lining. When schools invest in early education programs, they can drop those the number of students needing individual plans to catch up by thirty-two percent.
To help schools improve student scores, some of the state budget is earmarked to bring in resources to help. And help is needed. Many children that are in the lowest percentiles of learning have multiple challenges to overcome. Some of them are transient. They may start in one school district, and end up in another one by the end of that year. This can make it a challenge to bring up test scores, as not every school has the same reading standards. Students may read at first and second-grade levels when they get to third grade, increasing the challenge for teachers. Children that live in houses with lower incomes have additional obstacles to overcome, as we have discussed in other articles.
In spite of all these challenges, there have been some encouraging results. In the first few years, schools have seen a 94% success rate of improving student reading scores. This has been a product of the extra focus on reading and the additional resources provided to underperforming school districts. The Ohio Department of Education has created a guide to help school districts understand the program as well as find ways to fund it. It is possible to spend Title I funds on outside resources that move students closer to the Third Grade Reading Guarantee goals. The early successes of this program are giving school districts using its optimism for the future of their students.
For many children, going to school is just one part of their daily ritual. They grumble get out of their comfortable bed, have breakfast, and are transported to school for a day of learning and spending time with friends. They receive their assignments for the day, then head home to complete them before they head to bed and get ready to complete the cycle the next day. That is the ideal: a stable base for children to build their education upon.
That is not the reality for may children. As of 2013, most students come to school from low-income households. They can leave for school malnourished and tired from sleepless nights in unstable homes. Heading to school can be dangerous as well, especially if their home is in a high crime neighborhood. School can add to the struggle when they cannot stay awake, are focused on their hunger instead of lessons, and have no time at home to complete assignments. Such a fragile base is difficult to build an education upon.
There are ways that the school itself can be a place to help students from low-income or unstable homes educate students in subjects beyond the three Rs.
One way was suggested over two decades ago by Dr. James Comer, a child psychologist from Yale University. He believed that “no significant learning occurs without a significant relationship.” He developed a process called the Comer Process, known by some as the School Development Program. It is a system that looks after the whole student, helping them develop social and life skills in school along with being educated. Teams are built to help students manage their lives inside and outside of the classroom.
It takes a major commitment to apply the Comer Process to a school. There are many other options for schools to ensure that students are being supported for the time they are there.
- Building Relationships – You do not need to treat students as friends, but you do need to give them respect. A trusting relationship is a big step in discovering what is happening outside the classroom that could affect them inside of it.
- Formal Communication – Unless the home is highly religious, formal speech is not often used in low-income families. Most tests over the years are written formally, which makes them harder to understand for these students. Building this form of vocabulary is incredibly important over the long haul.
- Understand their Resources – By understanding what support a student has, arrangements can often be made by the school to offer what they do not have. Time and tutoring are usually the two things most students in low-income families need most.
- How to be a Student – Being a student is a skill that is not inborn; it is learned. Asking questions, planning assignments, and preparing for tests may not be taught in the home. Especially if the parents struggled in school. But it can be taught with other lessons.
Low-income students offer schools the opportunity to be a haven from their day to day life. They can help them with life skills they may not find at home, adding stability to what can be a very unstable existence. A stability to help them become lifelong learners.