Critical Minds, Compassionate Hearts

Ideas to Spark Independent Reading at Home

Julie Koven Levine, Librarian
What can you do to inspire your child to read independently at home?
Pop into a Rashi fourth grade classroom after lunch and you’ll see students curled up in a corner or leaning back against their chairs, engrossed in their books during D.E.A.R. (Drop Everything and Read) time. Check out a first grade classroom during S.Q.U.I.R.T (Sustained Quiet Uninterrupted Independent Reading Time) and find children proudly sounding out words, getting more and more excited about their reading journeys. Visit our school library throughout the day and find third graders browsing the shelves, excitedly looking for the next volume in a favorite series.

Get Excited About What Your Child is Reading and Make Suggestions for Their Next Great Read
Many of our Rashi students are avid and enthusiastic readers, and it can be inspiring to put the right book at the right time in each child’s hand, and often more importantly, suggest follow-up books. For the child who’s laughed at Junie B. Jones, we might suggest Ivy & Bean, Judy Moody, or the Ramona books. For the fantasy lover who’s finished Magic Tree House, there’s a new series called The Fantastic Frame, in which two children get sucked into famous paintings and navigate the world of art. For the child who can’t get enough of The Thirty-Nine Clues, there’s also Infinity Ring, and for more advanced readers, the Alex Rider books. Though most fiction books in the Rashi library are shelved by author, many popular series have been separated out and organized by genre, so a student who loves mystery or adventure stories will find them all together, and the animal lover will see all the fantasy books which feature animals in one spot.

Get Involved With Your Child's Reading
Parents can help encourage reading at home in a number of ways. Reading together, even for older children, can go a long way towards helping children see the value of what they’re reading. If you’ve never read the novel your child’s class is currently reading, why not get your own copy to be able to discuss it and make connections with your child?

Of course, modeling reading behavior is a must, and children will be more interested in reading at home if parents are curled up on the couch and reading for pleasure as well.

Having trouble determining if a book is the right reading level for your child? In our younger grades, we encourage children to find “Just Right” books by using the “five finger rule:” Choosing a page at random, hold up a finger for each word you’re not sure of. If there are five or more words you don’t know, the book is probably too hard. But zero - one finger may be too easy, and it might be better to find a book that’s slightly more challenging. This “Reading Rockets” article has some hints to help with this process.

Support Their Reading Habits
Try not to discourage a child who seems only interested in graphic novels; this format often feels more approachable for children and can spark an interest in later choosing a similar book with more text. Some of the most popular books are those with a “hybrid” style of text plus illustrations, perfect for reluctant readers or those just beginning to read chapter books. They stretch kids to read longer sections of text, with frequent “breaks” of the graphic novel format mixed in. Some series examples in this style are Geronimo Stilton, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Dork Diaries, Hamster Princess, Tapper Twins, and Ellie McDoodle.

Make More Books Available to Your Child
Don’t forget to visit your public library regularly as a family for a larger selection of books than what is in our school library! Making a visit to the public library as an “event” gets your kids excited and engaged. Public libraries also have some amazing programs and activities, so be sure you check out their calendars or join mailing lists.

Prefer e-books? Try Rashi’s subscription to Tumblebooks, either via a web browser or an app (our username is rashischool and our password is reads.) For a much more robust selection of ebooks, Overdrive via your public library is an absolute goldmine of both ebooks to read on your devices, as well as downloadable audiobooks you could listen to as a family during a long car ride. Each library has its own borrowing period (generally two weeks) and there are no overdue fines because books are automatically returned when the lending period ends! Just be aware that libraries pay for licenses of each book, the same way they pay for copies of physical books that go on shelves, so high-demand books may already be “checked out.” Another fabulous source of ebooks for children, though not free, is Epic!. Unlimited access is $7.99 per month, and it offers access to thousands of fiction, non-fiction, graphic novels, National Geographic titles, and more.

Some resources to help with book selection:

Most Checked Out Books from Our Library in the Past Month

1. Telgemeier, Raina. Smile. 2010. [Call #: GRAPHIC Tel]
2. Kinney, Jeff. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Cabin Fever. 2011. [Call #: FIC Kin]
3. Kinney, Jeff. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Hard Luck. 2013. [Call #: FIC Kin]
4. Telgemeier, Raina. Drama. 2012. [Call #: GRAPHIC Tel]
5. Chmakova, Svetlana. Awkward. 2015. [Call #: GRAPHIC Chm]
6. Kinney, Jeff. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Double Down. 2016. [Call #: FIC Kin]
7. Arnold, Tedd. Prince Fly Guy. 2015. [Call #: E Arn]  
8. Martell, Nevin. Standing Small: A Celebration of 30 Years of the LEGO Minifigure. 2009. [Call #: 688.7 Mar]
9. Martin, Ann M. / Telgemeier, Raina. The Baby-Sitter’s Club, The Truth About Stacey: A Graphic Novel. 2006 [Call #: GRAPHIC Mar]
10. Kinney, Jeff. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days. 2009. [Call #: FIC Kin]