About Dan McConnell

Raised in disreputable back-road barrooms in the hills of Cortland County, when draft beers were seventy five cents, the pool tables only fifty cents, and the soda pop was free, little Danny McConnell was a dark horse contestant for husband, father, elementary school teacher, and writer. Which one of those he has been able to win at is just as debatable as his sanity- but he continues to listen to the voices in his head and give it his best. Now, on a country hilltop in Central NY with a wife and three beautiful daughters, he claims some small slice of success-but he hopes to earn full redemption through the written word and shaping the dangerous young minds of tomorrow.

Originally posted in RealEdReform

My own three daughters are insatiable readers, perpetual writers, and the oldest is our first state-level and national level prize winner for her writing. Number two has submitted this year, but she’s only in 10th grade and is just beginning to develop her formidable chops.  How did I encourage my children to read and to write? How do I convince students to do these things more?

It is neither one simple thing, nor is it a mystery. It is a mindset, a values system, a lifestyle. My wife and I have probably spent a good deal of cumulative time trying to make sure we are punctual with pickup and return of borrowed books from the various local libraries in our area. Our three girls love books and we as a family own more than we know what to do with. In fact are looking to organize book giveaways to help reduce our stock somewhat (which is likely to get replenished-truth be told)-I have forever struggled with parting ways with my books. I would rather build extra shelves.

It is a mindset, a values system, a lifestyle. Click To Tweet

It truly beats arcades, shopping malls, closed door bedrooms or living room couches with endless hours of video games. And it has brought me to a day where I am blessed with a bright, articulate, critical-thinking and deeply thoughtful family of three young girls and a beautiful wife. I guess you could presume that valuing literacy and literature weren’t the critical components-but if I think of other people and other families who demonstrate living by example (vs dictating a method from afar)…reading and the value of reading; encouraging that value in their own children and in students-if they are teachers…this is a consistent characteristic.

So, as a good place to start: how do you encourage your child to read?

Read in front of them. Read to them. Watch them read. Ask them about what they have read or are reading. Don’t pester them, you need to value their understanding and their take on it-not hold them accountable to your own. What do they get from it and what impressions did they get? What connections do they make or can you help them make? Conversations that show you care about what they unpacked from the book is more important than showing that your mission is more important. That would be valuing yourself.

Listen to them read to you. Read together. Practice reading together passing the book back and forth and taking turns. When they are a little older, do “book talks” and shared readings.

When they are tiny, read with them on your lap, reclined in a chair and with your child in the spot between your arm and your side, with your child’s head just under your shoulder and the book where you can both see.

When they are toddlers, point to the words that sound really familiar-the ones used frequently when you speak. Point to the parts of the illustration that go with those words. Point to and name familiar and interesting things in the illustrations and ask them “Where is the …. “ to have them point it out. Incorporate silly voices for the characters, sound effects, a little “theater”…

Have bookshelves full of books – various books. Magazines too-have a magazine subscription or two if you can afford to (Highlights, National Geographic for kids, etc) and if you can’t afford subscriptions-get issues second-hand to keep around… Limit t.v. time and video game time.

Listen to a wide variety of music. Tell stories, sing songs, and expect “lights out” by 8:30…but stretch it ‘til 9 if they are sneaking in some extra reading quietly.

Buy books as gifts. Sometimes a nice one-maybe brand new, maybe a little old and musty but with a great artsy hard cover… Frequent book barns and garage sales and look for hidden treasures.

Tell stories, sing songs Click To Tweet

And write. For children, the power to see that they can put things down on paper to be read can be as inspirational as the reading itself. When it is your mind creating ideas, as opposed to absorbing the ideas of others-your mind becomes stronger. For children, seeing and engaging with the adult models in their lives who are obviously enthusiastic about these literacy activities encourages that same enthusiasm to grow. It encourages children to read and write.

 

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