Thursday, July 18, 2013

The 25 Minute Rule (Building Good Reading Habits)

I wanted to chat for a bit today about a simple little tip I'm using this summer to encourage and build good reading habits...for both my girls. (And I'd love for you to leave your suggestions in the comments section!) My firstborn, Natalie, was born with a lot of smarts. Her vocabulary has always impressed other adults, and she loved being read to from a very early age (I can still recite Moo, Baa, La La La and I Am a Bunny by heart)...still does.
The 25 Minute Rule: Building Good Reading Habits, at Serenity Now

Learning letters and sounds was a breeze for her, but real, actual reading involved much wailing and gnashing of teeth. On both our parts. You see, reading requires effort. And (like her mother), Natalie can be lazy. Why bother to read when someone will just read the book to you? Firstborn, perfectionist tendencies also cause us both to get frustrated when we can't do something right the first time. 

After spending some time with an excellent private tutor this year, Natalie's reading skills (and scores) soared. She started to enjoy reading and choosing her own books.

Summer, however, has made us somewhat lax, and I felt like we needed to implement some sort of easy system to keep her skills going and to grow them. 

The new rule is simple:

Each girl has to read for 25 minutes before they can watch TV, play, etc. in the afternoons. 

I set the oven timer and Natalie chooses any book she wants to read for 25 minutes. Michaela Byrd and I spend the time reviewing her letter/sound flashcards and sounding out simple words. 

My strong-willed child, Natalie likes having control over which books she chooses. Michaela Byrd likes having me all to herself. I like that the TV isn't on, they're not yelling at each other, and they're doing something productive. 

So far, this system has worked well. It's non-negotiable. They don't get to watch a cartoon or a movie until they've done some reading. We spend the rest of the day playing, at the pool, running errands, etc.

Why 25 minutes?

Natalie's school sent home information (which I've found backed up online) that children who read for just 20 minutes a day perform better in school. It was part of her daily homework last year. I tacked on another five minutes because I figured it wouldn't kill 'em.

And it hasn't. Natalie picked out 17 books at the library yesterday, excited about each and every one. She would have tossed more into the cart if I hadn't stopped her, fearful of what kind of fines we might incur with any late returns. I've "caught" her reading in the car, on the couch, in her bed, etc. I've seen her let her little sister choose a book and they sit and read together.

I'm hoping the rule pays off. I know it did with me. I struggled with getting reading to "click" for me as a small child. I loathed it. My dad finally got strict and set a book goal for me. It eventually paid off. I grew to be a bookworm whose degree is in English, Speech, and Linguistics. And I write a blog. 

We aren't doing much travelling this summer, but I bet my seven year old has logged some serious miles in imaginary worlds!

How do you encourage your kids to build their reading skills?

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  1. I am in the same boat you are with my only daughter. She would rather play on her ipad or watch TV instead of read. This week, we had a come-to-Jesus meeting. She has to "earn" TV/ipad time now, which not only includes reading for 15 minutes a day, but having her room and bathroom straightened up as well. All her chores have to be done in order to stay up past 8:00. That may seem harsh and baring, but we have slacked up on her this summer and she has completely taken advantage of us and this week, I reached the end of my rope. Needless to say, her bed was made this morning before she turned on the TV and ate her breakfast. We'll see how long it lasts.

  2. When I was a kid the library had this program that for each book (for the little kids) or every 15 min (for kids reading chapter books) you would color in a square on this sheet. (The sheet kind of looked like a board game map.) At certain points there were rewards, everything from bookmarks to dining out gift certificates, etc, etc. My Grandpa would take me to the library every week & it encouraged me to read & see how far I could get on that map. I still have that love of reading & always have a book with me. The 25 min might seem like a "chore" in the beginning, but as you're already starting to see once a child discovers the worlds that lie within a book, it's hard to get them to stop.

  3. This is a great idea! The 25 minute rule looks very effective. I will do this to my daughter. I'm sure she'll improve her reading habits. :-)


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