The idea of your children sitting quietly on your lap (or next to you) is one of the things we love about reading with our kids. The chance to cuddle makes it fun for us, and it is easier to do, too. But what about those of us with always-busy kids? How are we supposed to read with them when they won't sit still?
When your child is a toddler, you expect lots of wandering about. But what happens when they get to school? All of a sudden, that energy can become an issue. In the classroom, high levels of activity don't always work, but that doesn't mean your child's need for activity goes away.
Just like last week, I'll use three literacy categories to offer suggestions and tips. That post has definitions for the three levels, so I won't repeat them here.
Emergent Literacy - Infants, Toddlers, and Preschoolers
The phrase "babies are like sponges" is apropos for this group. At this age, children are eager to learn and absorb every little thing, using all their senses in the process. From the minute they wake up to the moment they conk out, they are going. They are figuring out their world; putting names to objects and sounds; and finding their favorite things. Not all their learning comes from books. Regular conversations and singing along with the radio both offer ways to engage kids by expanding their vocabulary and introducing new concepts. Asking them questions about what they are doing/see/hear also helps their communication skills by encouraging them to talk about observation and process. When it comes to books, lots of board and picture books play to their love of exploring, and some will inspire your child to be part of the story by acting like the characters.
They don't mind if you read while they play, so if you keep reading, they'll keep listening and doing their thing. This YouTube video of a toddler/preschool story time at the Chillicothe and Ross County Public Library (Ohio) may offer you some ideas on ways to engage young children with literacy concepts and books while still allowing them to be themselves.
Early and Transitional Literacy - Kindergarten to Second Grade
As kids reach Kindergarten and first grade, they still love exploring and hands-on learning. They have mastered basic object identification and colors, and many have mastered letter recognition and sounds. Now they are ready to begin more formal processes for learning to read. This is a layered approach that usually includes reading simple books and word study to build a set of vocabulary words they recognize by sight (sometimes called a "word bank"). There are many ways to help kids grow as readers, including active kids who don't do well sitting with flashcards. Here are a few ideas.
Susan Stephenson (the Book Chook) paired a baking sheet and magnetic letters so that her son could practice spelling and words. This is a reading activity that lets readers-to-be practice independently in the car, on the playground, anywhere.
Fluent Readers - Third Grade and Beyond
This may sound odd, but if you can let your child exercise hard for 30 to 40 minutes before she has to start any task that includes reading, it will get done faster. [http://www.edutopia.org/exercise-fitness-brain-benefits-learning] By the time kids reach third grade, the activity centers they used to know are gone, and they are sitting most of their school day. For kids who are active, it takes all their energy to "conform" during school, so a surge of physical exertion can help get them re-focused.
My sister-in-law tells the story of my nephew (now a freshman in high school) who bounces his soccer ball while he does his homework. He walks a "track" athrough the kitchen, dining room, and living room because he needs to be in constant motion when they are reviewing material for quizzes and tests. It drives her crazy, but if she forces him sit still, he gets so pent up that he forgets what he had been studying.
Reading with an active child can be distracting and frustrating, but it can also be lots of fun. With younger kids, textured, lift-the-flap, and pop-up books can engage an active child with stories. These books give them a bit of independence, keep them busy, and help them focus, too.
With older kids, if you can find something quieter than a bouncing soccer ball and/or get past the motion, you may be able to sneak in some recreational reading that your kids might not otherwise have. This might allow you the bond that came with reading aloud alive with an otherwise resistant pre-teen. This Scholastic Parent video demonstrating how to read out loud with your pre-teen may have some ideas for you, too.
While it may not seem to you that you are "making progress" with your child's literacy development, you are. As long as they're within hearing range, just keep moving!
Mom reading with boys - Barbara's Mommy, Teach Me album on Picasa.
Upside Down Reader cover - Amazon.com (no link offered)
YouTube Videos: CRCPL Kids Channel and Scholastic Parent Channel