Raising Readers

How Cy-Fair parents can foster a love of reading in their children

Written by Clare Jensen 

Cypress, TX News – Cy-Fair is well-known for its high-quality education. Sometimes, the academic rigor can be intimidating for parents and students, but there is a tried-and-true method that has proven over and over again to help prepare kids for academic success – and it has nothing to do with expensive tutoring or competitive pre-school or rigorous scholastic drills. Cy-Fair experts all agree, the magic technique is making time to read with your children.

“Children need to see their parents reading a variety of text. They should see you reading a book for pleasure, reading the newspaper and discussing current events, and reading materials to gain information,” says Cypress Christian School librarian Amy Mitton. “Even asking your child to read the grocery list aloud while in the store is helpful for them. We want to surround our children with reading so that it becomes second nature to them.”

Cypress Christian School believes that reading is the foundation for all other areas of learning

Cypress Christian School believes that reading is the foundation for all other areas of learning

The Benefits of Books
Reading creates connections: with the plot and characters, with other people, and through writing. Lone Star College-Cy-Fair young adult librarian Elise Sheppard says, “Good readers make good writers. If you read good literature, your own writing will improve.” Reading increases vocabulary, which in turn benefits writing ability. Eventually, sentence structure patterns become familiar enough for children to include them in their own writing.

In addition, reading sparks emotional connection and development. “We need to send the message that reading is not just something you have to do in school,” Campbell Middle School librarian and technology liaison Abbie Lester says. “A good book can be a best friend or a lifeboat in troubled waters. There is nothing more powerful than the right book at the right time in the hands of a child.”

“Children are sponges who easily soak up so much of what they read,” explains Mitton. “Learning to read at an early age will help to ensure success in school, even in subjects such as math. Reading is the foundation for all other areas
of learning.”

Cy-Fair ISD board vice president, Tom Jackson, reads to students at Copeland Elementary

Cy-Fair ISD board vice president, Tom Jackson, reads to students at Copeland Elementary

Reading at Home
The importance of books is often emphasized, but people sometimes forget to focus on possible strategies to encourage reading. Sampson Elementary School librarian Paula Morgan says, “Reading touches almost every aspect of your success in life. I would almost consider it a survival skill.” Parents provide their children with understanding of other survival skills, so reading should not be an exception. But what is the best method of teaching this particular skill? The example provided by parents who themselves read is central to encouraging their children’s involvement. Morgan says, “Parents have a front row seat to being involved with reading. They can, and should, be role models.”

In addition to creating an environment of readers through personal investment in literature, magazines, or newspapers, parents can bring books into their children’s lives on a more specific level. Reading aloud for just 15 minutes every night introduces the pattern of daily reading as a routine.

Even as children grow older, reading builds bonds within the family. “Reading at home reinforces reading for pleasure and enjoyment, while also reinforcing what is learned at school,” says Mitton. “Children need to become fluent readers, and this comes from practice and time spent reading a variety of genres.” Becoming a reader is also a very visual experience. Help your children build a literary library they can see, touch, and interact with.

Another method of encouraging reading is through technology. Today’s world is undeniably digital – with laptops, tablets, iPods, and smart phones as inseparable companions. Many libraries offer free e-books for checkout, which encourages the convenience of reading through the digital medium. Lester adds, “Books symbolize curiosity for me. Technology can also be a pathway to curiosity.” Acknowledging the world of technology allows it to become an ally in the reading process, not an enemy or competitor.

Blaise and Emma follow along at a listening station at Primrose School

Blaise and Emma follow along at a listening station at Primrose School

Reading in the Community
Cy-Fair ISD boasts a visiting author program, with past guests including former NFL player Tim Green, Rick Riordan of the Lightning Thief series, and even an author from Australia. Morgan praises the program as one of Cy-Fair ISD’s most successful. The kids learn about the writing process – how the author thinks, why they write, where they write, and how they come up with ideas. Students then seem to have a special connection to the books written by that author.”

For parents, discussing these experiences or the books read lets children know that their parents are interested and invested in reading. Volunteering in schools or libraries provides another method of involvement. Cypress Woods High School librarian errie Schexnaider emphasizes the importance of these volunteers. “Volunteers can encourage reading by becoming a mentor at their local school, volunteering in the library, or offering to read to a class. Community mentors are another key to our students’ successes at all levels in our district.”

CFM_F_14_raising readers Kids R Kids Ruth Ann

Kids ‘R’ Kids teacher takes reading fun outdoors

Parents can also promote reading by bringing their children to the many programs offered in the community. Libraries in Cy-Fair ISD schools and in the Lone Star College-Cy-Fair branch of the Harris County Public Libraries system offer a variety of opportunities. They frequently sponsor suggested reading lists, such as the Texas-approved bluebonnet list.

Sometimes the measurement of goals from these lists is by books finished, hours read, or pages completed. Regardless of the barometer, the honor of achievement provides incentive for children to read and is often supplemented with a prize.

CLARE JENSEN is a senior at Rice University majoring in English and history. She enjoys sharing her love of books with people of all ages.