Reading in the minority language : Leading by example

A couple of months ago, I posted about a new idea I had: a weekly Family Reading Time.  My aim in so instoring this weekly event was to set a positive example to our eldest (almost 7).  She is a budding independent reader yet she does not have the taste of reading books for leisure yet.

Implementing a Family Reading Time is not the only action we have taken, however.  Our attempts at fostering her independent reading took many shapes and forms:

  • We do our personal reading in front of our daughters.
  • We only read in the minority languages in front of them.
  • We avoid reading on screens – the only exception being my husband’s e-reader.  However, he has shown to our eldest that it is a book, and not a media screen such as our tablet and computer.  He also alternates physical and electronic books.
  • Let her see us using a dictionary – to show that even us grown ups learn as we read.
  • Get her to use a dictionary – I have just acquired a new more extensive children’s dictionary for her, to develop in her the habit of looking up a word she does not know that she comes across as she is reading.
  • Repeatedly reassure her that it is okay not to know and that she must ask any word that she does not understand, so as not to hinder her comprehension and hence enjoyment of the story.  The message being that learning is part of the process of reading but that it leads to the enjoyment of the story.
  • We discuss our books – we discuss each other’s books, ask questions about them.  It is a time of communication and sharing.
  • Our local school has joined the initiative of a pro-literacy group, and organises a daily 15 minutes reading just before lessons resume after the lunch break, so as to allow kids to unwind, calm down, practice their literacy skills and… enjoy reading.  As part of this programme, kids take a book to school to read and share with classmates.
  • We regularly take our daughters to the local library and have them choose a stack of books.  We let the eldest sit and read alone in one of their comfy armchairs whilst we read to the youngest.

These actions supplement a long-standing “campaign” to promote reading in our home:

  • A HUGE amount of books at home – to date we have over 524 minority language books! 
  • Regular fresh supplies of books.
  • Making the arrival of new books a treat – the girls have understood that our minority language books come through the post.  There is a huge excitement as to who will carry the parcel, who will open it, for whom the book is, etc…The minute the parcel is open, they usually want to sit down and have me read the book(s) or the eldest reads it on her own.
  • Leaving books within little hands’ reach – shelves at their height, library books on the shelf beneath the coffee table, a basketful of books in the loo,…
  • Using books to illustrate/explain something – it helps put pictures on abstract words and concepts.
  • Bedtime story ritual.
  • Read-aloud at kids’ request.
  • Read-aloud over dinner and sometimes even breakfast.
  • Captive reading.
One of the first times I caught our eldest reading on her own at her own initiative…

Over the last 2 months, we have noticed a gentle change in our eldest’s approach to reading:

  • She looks forward to our weekly Family Reading Time – Several times a week, she asks whether it is the Family Reading Night.  She primarily enjoys the privilege of a later bedtime as her sister is yet too young to participate and disrupts the event, but also the quiet atmosphere that enables everybody to focus on their reading.  The latter she would not normally be able to do as her little sister would immediately as her for attention.
  • On several occasions, she grabbed a book to read on her own or to her sister.
  • She is now bombarding us with questions as to what a word (heard or read) means – as if she is finally realising how important they are for her comprehension.
  • When she asks me what a word means, I help her look it up in the dictionary.  She usually is excited about it and I have seen her a couple of times picking the dictionary up and flicking through it, reading definitions at random.

It is funny that I shall be publishing this post today and that no later than last night, our eldest grabbed her chapter book of her own volition for a 10min read before leaving for school, and at bedtime, desperate to read the 4 pages left to be able to move on to the next book in the series. It definitely seems like the saying is right: in education you lead by example.

What are you tips to foster independent reading in your child?  Please share your them in the Comment section.

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