Helping Kids Say “I Love to Read”

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I clearly remember the day in first grade when reading “clicked” for me.
Seated in a circle with other kids in my reading group, I studied the page from the oversize book on the teacher’s easel. I don’t remember what Dick, Jane, and their dog, Spot, were doing at this point in the story. But I do remember that the letters on the page suddenly became words. Oh, so that’s how it works!

I took off reading and didn’t stop for years. Most mornings began with reading all the cereal boxes on the table. Soon I had a library card, and how I loved my weekly trips to the children’s library in my town to scoop up armfuls of fascinating books! Eventually I graduated to the main library and weathered high school with help from countless young-adult novels (tamer, I’m sure, than many YA books today … )

College slowed my love of reading for pleasure, I’m sorry to say. Marriage and motherhood turned my attention to reading for information–I needed help! A career in publishing has at times both fueled and foiled my love of reading, and today I too frequently succumb to information overload as I scan social media and news sites and blog posts about countless topics and goings-on in our world.

But I can’t imagine not reading or not enjoying reading. I don’t want to forget the joy of a good story I just couldn’t–and didn’t–put down until I reached the end. I wouldn’t ever want to put off opening my Bible because I don’t enjoy reading … and I don’t want any child to grow up feeling that way either.

So how do we encourage children to read?
By our example,
by reading to them even while they are babies
by filling our homes with books that engage and entice them
by making reading an everyday practice
by taking trips to the library and the bookstore
by helping them find the books they want to read
by keeping tabs on how their reading ability is progressing and getting the right help when it is needed.

Want more tips? Check out “I Hate Reading: What this can really mean and how parents can help” on the Scholastic.com website.

Happy reading!

DIANE

Visit Diane at www.dianestortz.com
© 2014, Diane Stortz

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Something to take home #1

It’s a dilemma familiar to anyone involved in planning a children’s ministry: What activity will follow the story time? More often than not we immediately consider a reproducible activity sheet, or a simple paper craft involving some cutting and pasting for the younger age group, or a puzzle or word game for the older kids. If we do not have to invent our activity we are probably using a curriculum that provides similar prepared pages. All paper based, all involving some level of literacy and all quickly prepared to suit whatever story was the focus of the day.

It’s very easy to fall into the trap of relying on such materials, but there are several compelling reasons why I believe this type of activity resource may not always be the best  to use. I would even argue that in some children’s ministry environments it may be worth trying to avoid their use as much as possible.
Here are five reasons I like to steer away from paper based craft in children’s ministry settings:

1. Paper based activity sheets often rely heavily on literacy based skills unintentionally marginalising those children who, for one reason or another, find themselves struggling in this area. The last thing we want is for children like this to learn a subconscious message that they are not smart enough for God.

2. Many hand out or worksheet activities are focused on individual learning. Although it is important for children to make faith decisions for themselves, as individuals, children’s ministry settings offer a unique opportunity for practicing faith community. Let’s make the most of this!

3. Workbooks, photocopies handouts, word-searches etc all have an unspoken ‘school’ feel to them. The last thing many children want when out of school hours is to feel like they are back there! Although spiritual formation does include learning, it does not need to always feel like formalised education. Boys, in particular, often feel a natural aversion to this type of learning.

Penny Reeve4. Quickly made paper based crafts are often reluctantly received by parents and quickly find their way into the recycling bin. (There are only so many beautiful colouring pages that fit on a standard size fridge.) Unfortunately we are sending home a message that what is learnt in our programs is quickly replaceable and forgettable. We also end up supporting a very disposable culture which at it’s heart opposes the values of the Kingdom of God.

5. If we are only using hand out and ‘sit down at a desk’ type activities we limit the learning style catered for in our ministry setting. God made us all unique with different ways of internalizing what is learned, committing things to memory and building on a faith foundation. We may be missing some kids altogether, or unintentionally delivering a shallow faith lesson to many more when we only use the same type of activities to ‘compliment’ the lesson.

I’m certainly not saying ‘never‘ use paper based activities (cut outs, worksheets, simple crafts etc) but I believe it’s certainly worth keeping our eyes open for alternatives that are inclusive, encouraging, lasting and focused on promoting genuine internalization of the important faith lessons explored in your ministry setting.

Over my next few posts (my slot is the first and third Thursday of each month) I’ll start unpacking what some alternative activities might look like. In the meantime, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject.

Penny 

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Last Guest Post

 

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Greetings, everyone!
Today is my last post as a guest blogger and I had planned to write something eloquent and thought-provoking. I am sorry that is not the case! I have been battling a miserable case of shingles and that has taken precedence over everything else on my “to do” list.

I could not just end this time with you without expressing my gratitude for the last three months. I have enjoyed all the posts from various authors and have found a great deal of insight in each of them. I count it a privilege to have been part of the group for for these three months.

I have met a large number of children’s authors and illustrators over the years, and without exception, they are the most wonderful people! Add to that our common faith bond, and I cannot say enough about how wonderful it is to be part of such a “great cloud of witnesses,” both in this life and beyond.

So thank you – each of you – for what you do for the Kingdom of God. Thank you for letting me ramble for the last three months. Thank you for allowing God to bring the truth of Christ into the lives of children of all ages.

May God continue to bless the wonderful work that you do, and the people that you are.

Gratefully,
Kathy Bostrom

(Photo: Vatican Bookstore in Rome, Italy, where I found the Italian versions of several of my books)

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