As we start a new year, here are some goals you and your family could set that would help all of you become better readers.
1. Build your vocabulary
Set a goal for you and your family to learn new words this year. One way you could do this is to have a “word of the week.” Challenge yourself and your family members or friends to use that word as often as possible. It could be a game to add to dinner time or bedtime – 1 point for every time you use the word of the week! The person with the most points either gets a prize or some bragging rights.
A good website for learning more about words and getting some inspiration is Dictionary.com. I love their videos, quizzes and articles about words.
Of course the library has a lot of great books that can help you or the kids in your life learn new words. Here are just a few from our collection:
- The Word Collector by Peter Reynolds
- 100 Words Every Middle Schooler Should Know
- Word Workout: Building a Muscular Vocabulary in 10 Easy Steps by Charles Elster
2. Try reading in a different format
Adding the sense of sound by listening and reading at the same time can be a powerful way to practice your reading skills. Reading a book with more visual components – like a graphic novel or picture book – can stimulate your imagination. Some ways to do this are listening to an audiobook, reading a graphic novel, turning on the closed captions on the TV while you watch a show or a movie, reading a picture book or leafing through an over-sized coffee table type book with lots of pictures.
Here are some books in different formats you could try:
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins – try it as a Playaway Bookpack. Bookpacks are kits that allow you to listen to the book and read it at the same time. Other ways you can do this are with Vox books like Click Clack Moo (the player is built right into the book!) or digitally with read alongs on Hoopla like The Secret Garden.
Graphic novels can make reading practice easier for someone who loves to learn visually. You can experience a classic in a whole new way – as with A Wrinkle in Time – or discover a new favorite – such as the popular Sisters by Raina Telgemeier.
There are several ways you can download books or audiobooks electronically to phones, tablets and computers. The library offers digital books via Overdrive and Hoopla – but did you know about Bookflix? Bookflix is specifically for kids and provides more than just book videos and read alongs – there are also games and fun websites to explore. Check it out!
3. Stretch yourself by reading something out of your comfort zone
Mix up your reading this year by challenging yourself to read types of books you don’t normally read. This Bookriot article has several ideas for a start. These ideas can be used with families, tutors and students, or groups. For example, try reading a book set on every continent this year. Or read a book about or set in the place you plan to go for vacation. Have a family member or friend choose what book you are going to read next. Reading challenges can be a fun way to add more diversity to your reading.
Start the year with an easy challenge – our Winter Reading Challenge. This is a challenge to read three books in January. I have one last piece of reading challenge advice – don’t make yourself read a book you really don’t like. Apply the “rule of 50” – if you don’t like it after 50 pages you can put it down and move on to something else.
4. Read aloud more
Reading aloud is a powerful way to build literacy skills. It can also create connections between the people who are sharing the experience. Reading aloud can also be just plain fun! I challenge you to read aloud as a family, as a teacher or tutor, or even as a friend with your friends this year. This article from Reading Rockets provides some great suggestions and inspiration. Think this sounds too daunting or time consuming? Consider this approach – reading poetry together! Poems are meant to be read aloud. There are poems for every reading level and they can fit any mood. Some of my favorite poetry books to read aloud are:
- Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein
- You Read to Me, I’ll Read to You by Mary Ann Hoberman
- Family Poems for Every Day of the Week by Francisco Alarcon – A Bilingual Poetry book in both English and Spanish
5. Get help – or become a helper
Do you have some goals for this year that you could use some help with? Perhaps you or someone you know would like to get their High School diploma – Let’s Help or Orion can help with that. Maybe an adult you know could use some tutoring to improve their reading, writing or math. Contact the Topeka Literacy Council for free one on one tutoring. Washburn Tech can provide continuing education that can get you or someone you know on their way to a great employment future. Let this be the year you overcome your fears and reach out for help!
If you’re more inclined or able to be a helper to others, we’d love to have you attend one of our Reading Champions meetings this year. Our first one – a general orientation – will be 9:30am on Sat, Jan 11 in the Learning Center at the Library. We’ll introduce participants to how they can help spread the word about literacy resources in our community, and ways they can support their family and friends who are learning to read. In February we’ll discuss read aloud book clubs. These clubs can be a great way to help build literacy skills and a share the love of reading with all ages and levels of readers.
Happy reading everyone! I’d love to hear YOUR reading resolutions. Comment on this post or send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.