If you want to build a ship, don't recruit the men to gather the wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.I read the above quote today by Antoine de Saint-Exupery and all I could think was, "BINGO!!!!!!!" Yes, yes, and yes!
His thoughts echo something I recently read by Richard Lavoie in his book The Motivation Breakthrough: 6 Secrets to Turning on the Tuned-Out Child. Lavoie talks about the distinction between extrinsic and intrinsic motivation. He argues that the former (systems/policies that encourage a child to earn rewards) doesn't lead to the latter (a child who is motivated from within). He isn't opposed to "well-planned and implemented reward programs;" however, he stresses that we should be "mindful that intrinsic motivation is our long-term goal" (12). As Saint-Exupery suggests, teach them to yearn and the rest will follow and be its own reward.
While Saint-Exupery was talking about building ships and the sea, I think his metaphor is easily applied to children and reading. Feed their enthusiasm about the world of stories and the semantics of reading will come together, and most importantly, be fueled by their own internally generated motivation to crack the reading code. Leave them without exposure to the wonderful world of stories and what will be left to motivate them when the going gets (or perhaps stays tough) with reading?
Let's face it, learning to read can be a painstaking process, particularly now days when our kids are doing in kindergarten what many of us were still trying to master in second grade. I remember the phonics cards ... but they certainly were not in my kindergarten class, which I think was all graham crackers, naps, songs, and the occasional fluoride treatment.
So what can we do as parents to foster a love of reading? I hope you'll leave your ideas and best practices in the comments!
Here's one thing that seems to have worked for my kids: Books on CD. We rarely get in the car now without someone asking, "Can we listen to the story?," and often times they ask before the car is even running. We have listened to books on CD for longer car trips, but now, we listen to them pretty much everywhere we go ... baseball practice, grandma's house, the grocery store, etc. There are a zillion reasons why reading aloud to our kids is important and worth doing (which I hope to cover in another post) but perhaps one of the most important reasons is that it shows them how entertaining and enjoyable books can be! The hope is that this affinity will keep them in the struggle of learning to read when they are young and it will continue to inspire them to be lifelong readers once the basic skills have been mastered.
Books on CD are available at the local libraries and if you find the Moraga library selection lacking, you can always put a title on hold online at www.ccclib.org and have it delivered to the Moraga library for pick up.
For the younger kids, I can't help but recommend The BFG by Roald Dahl (as long as your kids can get through the kinda scary first part, which our 4-year old did). Natasha Richardson's rendition of the novel is hands-down-completely-laugh-out-loud-funny. My kids are still quoting that big, friendly giant and we listened to the story months and months ago. For the older set, I'd recommend The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart.
We are currently listening to The Wayside School Collection by Louis Sachar, which was recommended by Jim Trelease in his Read Aloud Handbook (get it and be inspired!), and we've got Chocolate Fever by Robert Kimmel Smith on the docket when that finishes up.
How about you? What books on CD have been hits in your family?