Have you ever passed by your child’s bedroom or playroom and noticed them twisted into some uncomfortable position on the floor reading a book? Thoroughly engrossed (and extraordinarily flexible) they aren’t even aware of how uncomfortable they are. They simply want to know what happens in the story next.
Although some children might prefer twisting into a pretzel, others tend to seek out a quiet corner, curl up and get cozy for their reading time. No matter the preference, most primary students go to schools where reading nooks (or reading corners) are in place in each classroom.
These special (and usually very fancy) reading spaces are revered as necessary for cultivating a child’s literacy.
But are they? What else encourages a child’s love of reading?
Today we’ll examine the reading corner and explore what builds a child’s enthusiasm to read and what you can do to cultivate it.
Why We Have Reading Corners
Getting a child interested in reading is one of the great, and necessary, goals of early education. And in most primary schools, the role of the reading corner is intended to spark a child’s enthusiasm for reading.
More often than not, reading corners are decorated in elaborate, whimsical fashion: made to resemble jungles, hot air balloons in flight, spaceships, camping scenes, etc. Sometimes they are a simple bean bag and rug next to a bookshelf. All in all, these spaces are meant to be inviting to a curious child and tempt them to grab a book and start reading. Because, after all, we want to encourage kids to be avid readers.
Education City boldly claims that “A reading [corner] can help build literacy skills such as sentence structure, punctuation and grammar.”
But is it really the reading corner itself that’s causing a child’s literacy skills to improve?
Infatuation with a reading nook can easily outweigh the purpose of having one. Undue emphasis put on making the biggest, best, and cutest nook at school… only to find that kids aren’t using it as the year progresses, is kind of a bummer. If that happens, we’ve completely missed the point of having the nook in the first place.
But, that’s not always the case. This teacher has experienced both sides of the spectrum. “I’ve had beautiful reading corners that children rarely visited or only visited because I timetabled for them to visit them once a week… Equally, I had a classroom once before that had nothing but a few shelves of books. Children hardly ever took books from those shelves and they sat gathering dust for a year.”
It’s reasonable to conclude that a reading corner itself isn’t what makes a child love to read.
So, what does make a child love to read? And how can you spark reading-love in your student, reluctant reader or not? Stick around, because those are the questions we’re answering today!
Addressing the Reluctant Reader
We can’t talk about building a love of reading in our kids without addressing the reluctant reader. Many reasons might influence your child to recoil from reading or listlessly look at the pictures without actually attempting the words part. There are kids who aren’t readers because they aren’t living in a reading culture, and there are kids you have coaxed and coaxed to read… and they just won’t!
As a former reluctant reader in my childhood, I understand that feeling of dread that settles around the reluctant reader when they’re handed a book. Ugh!
What are some common reasons that readers might be reluctant? And what can you do to redirect your child’s frustration into beneficial action?
- Your child isn’t interested in the topic of the books they’re given to read, says Understood.org. Try “Brainstorming with a librarian, a teacher, other students, or the Understood Community to find engaging books or topics. Comics, sports stories, fashion magazines — there’s such a variety of reading material out there. Encourage kids to explore.”
- A page full of text is overwhelming to them. Perhaps try “trading off pages as you read aloud to each other. This can make assigned reading feel more manageable… It gives kids a break and lets them hear fluent reading. It also keeps them engaged in a story they might not have the stamina to tackle all on their own,” says Understood.org.
- Touch-type Read & Spell reminds us that your child may also be struggling with a learning roadblock like dyslexia, autism, ADHD, eyesight issues, or hearing problems. Any one of these phenomena may contribute to a child’s reluctance to engage with a book. Try getting in touch with the appropriate doctor or therapist to see how you can best help your child overcome these struggles and encourage their literary growth and development!
No child is out of reach. They each learn at a different pace and have individual challenges to overcome. As an example, read this story of a dad who’s reluctant son got engaged with reading at school because there was a reading competition between him and his classmates! This just goes to show that with patience and encouragement, you can help dismantle their reluctance and introduce them to the world beyond the cover of a book.
Whatever the case, if you’re dealing with a reluctant reader or are setting out to encourage more reading in your home for the first time, there are many creative ways outside of the reading corner that you use to can encourage your child’s interest in reading.
It’s a Cultural Thing
“If we treat books like they’re magical, kids will grow up believing that too,” says Shanna Schwartz of Columbia University Teachers College.
It might sound overly simplistic, but when trying to instill a love of reading in a child, it’s important to build a reading culture for that child. Reading corners are a tool towards that end. What other tools can you, a parent, grandparent, or educator, be using to help build a reading culture that nurtures a child’s enthusiasm to read?
Read to Your Kids
The Conversation says, “Reading aloud fosters a love of books in children, and helps children get hooked on books as they associate reading with pleasure.” Additionally, Parents.com calls reading aloud “educational and social” as it often inspires children to love books because they’ve been read stories in a meaningful context: in their living room, sitting in the lap of a trusted adult, or at night before bed, all tucked in and safe.
We know that reading aloud isn’t always an option, however. Sometimes you’ll need a break. So, don’t discredit audiobooks to step in and give you a hand!
Love Books Yourself
Modeling what you wish your child to emulate is an important part of this literary endeavor! One mom of two reluctant readers shares that kids who are surrounded by books will be more likely to appreciate them. So take weekly trips to the library with your kids (don’t forget to get them their own library card!) to pick out books for yourself and perhaps for your family as well as letting your kids pick their own books.
Don’t be shy to start conversations about what you’re reading and what your kids are reading; however, most of these conversations, “should center on books that might appeal to the child rather than on the books you as an adult find engaging,” says The Conversation. All in all, if you make reading a normal part of life, your kids will be more likely to adopt it as a practice of their own.
Start a Book Club
This could be a family book club or you could suggest it to your child as a fun activity to do with a friend. Help them set calendar-date goals to finish reading a book so they can get together with their friend(s) and discuss it.
Make it more fun by suggesting seasonal books to your kids. They could make a list for the year, with goals for winter, spring, summer, and fall-themed books. Make sure to guide your child through the process so they don’t overwhelm themselves with too many reading goals and get burnt out!
Make a Story Sack
For more reluctant readers, this might hit the spot to help them see that reading is so much more than a one-dimensional chore. So, what’s a story sack? It’s “a bag that contains a book along with related craft ideas and materials, games, artifacts, and other items and information related to the story,” Education World shares.
First, pick a book about a topic you know your reluctant reader is interested in, like animals or cars, then pack things into a sack. Education World continues with ideas for compiling your bag like:
- “An audio tape or CD of the story
- A video of the story or a related video
- Artifacts related to the story
- Dolls or puppets related to the story
- Written instructions on how to act out the story—or a play script
- Arts-and-crafts materials to make costumes or props
- A game, puzzle, or toy related to the story
- Pictures of related places or events
- Nonfiction books about related places or events
- Paper and art supplies to write and illustrate a related story”
How Will You Build a Reading Culture?
Do children need fancy reading corners to be interested in reading? No. But, they might really benefit from one. Feel free to get creative and add your very own reading corner to your kid’s room, playroom, or even outside!
But don’t forget that it isn’t the reading corner’s job to make your child interested in reading. It’s your job to facilitate interest. The possibilities, ideas, and tools that help you find the best way to give your child a healthy reading culture are endless.