Our world is becoming more digital, but there are some things that computers shouldn’t completely replace. People now have access to hundreds of thousands of books, newspapers and media publications at their fingertips. But for young children, physical books that they can touch and interact are still important.
Children who have access to books from an early age become better readers later in life which is important for learning language skills and becoming an effective communicator. Research has found strong connections between the size of a child’s vocabulary, how much they read, and how well they do in school. (National Institute for Literacy)
Unfortunately, some students are not regularly exposed to books and reading in the home. It is important that you as their teacher give them that opportunity. If you haven’t done so already, take your students on an in-school field trip to your school’s library. Don’t assume that all the students, even the older ones, know how the library works. Show students how they can use the computer to search for books in which they are interested, and find them on the shelves. Many libraries also have e-books that can be downloaded to a tablet or reading device, which is great for older students.
You can also create a designated library or reading corner in your classroom. Stock age-appropriate books yourself, or start a “Little Free Library” where students can “take a book, leave a book”. Get some throw pillows or a couple comfy chairs (you can usually purchase inexpensive fold-up cushioned chairs from Target or Walmart – or send a note home with students asking parents to donate something similar they may not be using). You may need to specifically carve out time in your day to encourage reading – if you teach younger kids, read a book out loud to them. Older students can be allotted some time during the day just for reading – napping shouldn’t be tolerated!
Kids who learn to enjoy reading from a younger age often become life-long readers. Be the person who encourages that – you may be the only person in their life who does.