A reader is not always a leader, but a leader is always a reader.
– David Gergen
How do you get kids to read, and understand what they read? You read to them or with them.
How do you get them to talk about what they are reading and teach values, standards, and leadership to your children through this vehicle? You talk with them, not at them. Children, no matter their age, will not be open to lecturing, shaming, or blaming. The best dialogs come from unexpected conversations and relaxed visiting, natural outcomes of human interaction, often in conjunction with reading a book.
Breakfast with a Book
Our daughter’s family came up with a unique strategy to overcome early morning struggles of getting children up, dressed, fed and off to school with a good attitude. They started setting out cereal in bowls the night before and then gathering at the table at 7AM to share breakfast and 15 minutes of reading.
While the children ate, Bethany read a chapter or selection of a book, like The Book of Virtues. If there was time for discussion, they shared opinions and thoughts. If not, they knew they would have an opportunity to talk about it over dinner. All those conversations over books build comprehension skills.
Assuming Personal Responsibility
This group decision to have Mom make some toast, set out the milk and banana and then start reading at exactly 7AM, meant everyone had to assume personal responsibility to get up, get organized and get to the table on time.
It meant fewer arguments, whining and waiting for someone else to find the backpack. The children recognized that if they chose to use the time looking for a paper, then they would miss the reading. It took a few mornings of missing the reading, but soon even the slowest to get organized the night before arrived at the table on time. There were no worksheets on comprehension strategies, no exercises to do on the computer – just reading together as a family.
Talk About it Over Dinner
Open and calm discussion each evening over dinner can shape the character and confidence of every child. When these types of chats occur, a child puts “comprehension strategies” learned at school to work without even realizing it. Knowing that he or she is allowed to think aloud and share an opinion or ask questions, without being criticized, is an incredible path to critical thinking.
Because the parents have formed opinions on many subjects, the tendency is to say, “In our family we think this way.” That, however, does not foster the child learning to think for him or herself and analyze various options. Those ideas may not seem very important now but, when your child goes out on their own, they will be critical to that person’s survival.
It is better to use the old selling technique of feel, felt, and found. “I know how you feel about that, I felt that way myself, but I found that when you tell a small lie, it always grows and you have to think about what you are saying. I have found it easier to just decide to tell the truth.”
In this framework, parents have an opportunity to talk about how they came to embrace their own beliefs and reinforce the reasons why they made the choices they did.
How Understanding a Book Can Teach a Lesson
With this decision to read over breakfast, Bethany and her husband were surprised to find how the thought processes of each child differed. They also discovered that the children were more apt to adopt a virtue if they could hear a story and then work through its applications to them personally. Isn’t that what the teachers call “connecting text to self” in the classroom?
Plus, talking about the moral helped reinforce the concepts in the minds of the whole family.
It’s a Win-Win Project
Did this project always work? Yes, it worked and the whole family loved it. Was this family able to sustain the idea long term? Taking an idea and really discussing it as much as it might need to be was more difficult because of busy, stressful lifestyles.
This family did get through The Book of Virtues (thick with stories), but it took a few tries and new beginnings. Early morning classes, lost shoes and meltdowns and different schedules overruled the practice of A Book With Breakfast sometimes. They are going to keep trying, though, because it was a win-win for everybody.
Here are a few more win-win titles:
Degas and the Little Dancer by Lawrence Anholt
The Five Dog Night by Eileen Christelow
Watch Out, Big Bro’s Coming by Jes Alborough
Of course, find books that will interest your family.
Invitation to Join the Online Community
I invite you to join our online community of kind and caring people who want to support one another and encourage the children in our circle of influence. I look forward to building a relationship based on respect and mutually beneficial projects. For more information, contact:
Judy H. Wright at
http://www.ArtichokePress.com main site for books, workshops and speaking
http://www.AskAuntieArtichoke.com Relationship and communication blog
http://www.Twitter.com/judyhwright Tweet me
http://www.Facebook.com/judyhwright Let’s be friends
http://www.blogtalkradio.com/AuntieArtichoke my 15 minutes of fame every Thursday morning. It is a fun listen and would love to have you join me.
See Judy’s new book: “Out of Balance? Be a Bounce Back Person”
The Value of Audio Books.
A Surprising Way to Reinforce Values, Standards and Leadership
(and Build Comprehension): Reading Good Books at Home
©Judy H. Wright, AKA Auntie Artichoke, family relationship coach and author