We had some dear friends over today. The kids had a wonderful time playing together (mostly catching little crickets to feed to the praying mantis I caught yesterday) while their mom and I spent time encouraging one another in all matters of the family.
One thing she mentioned is that her 6 year old struggles with having confidence when she reads. My son has really blossomed into a confident reader in the past six months and I shared with her the one thing that I think helped him with this the most.
Provide Time Everyday for Free Reading
I am a firm believer in a quiet time for everyone in the middle of the day. Toddlers need it. Mamas need it. Even 5 year old boys who no longer take naps need it. Once my son completely stopped napping last year, I transitioned him to what we call "Reading and Resting Time." After lunch, while my daughter naps, my son has to spend an hour on his bed being quiet and still (well, as still as a little boy can stand to be!) He can lay there and close his eyes if he feels tired, or he can read. If you are just starting out, you might want to begin with a half hour and increase it from there.
Surround Your Child with Good Books and Let Them Choose
When we first started doing this, my son knew how to read, but really never put forth the effort unless I asked him to read for his school lesson. During this rest time, he would flip through book after book, just looking at the pictures. As time went on, I would ask him what he read and I could tell that he was starting to actually read instead of just looking at pictures. Do you need help finding quality books? Check out the 1000 Good Books list!
Watch Your Child Gain Confidence
Fast forward six months or so and now he will often come out of his room at the end or rest time and say "I read this one book for the whole time!" This time of free reading has subtly turned him into a eager, confident, and proficient reader. I think the key here is that he had freedom during these 'reading and resting' times. He didn't have to worry about me looking over his shoulder or correcting his every little mistake. He could go as quickly or as slowly as he wanted, skip words, jump ahead, go back...whatever he wanted. In his mind, reading changed from a task to finish into an enjoyable activity.
If you have a new reader who is making the transition from just reading during their school lessons to reading for enjoyment, I encourage you to set uninterrupted time aside each day for them to be surrounded by books. Let them explore quality books without the fear of being watched, critiqued, or hurried. You can ask them what they read at the end of their reading time, but do not require a narration or quiz them for retention. Let this be an enjoyable time for them to explore books and gain confidence in their reading ability!
Do you have a young reader in your home? Do you provide them with the opportunity to freely read each day?
If you are looking for some great books for your child to read during this quiet reading time, check out my list of over 30 great books for (approx.) 1st grade level.