Active Reading

If you have an active learner, reading a book together might sound more like an exercise in frustration than a fun and educational bonding experience.

Traditionally when you are being taught to read, you quietly sit still while you read the material and try to identify and remember the key facts, all so you can answer comprehension questions, often in another quiet stationary activity – writing. This works for some learning styles but for active learners it’s often impossible, which is why they start to “act out” and be “disruptive”.

(For more posts on Learning Styles and Multiple Intelligences, please see the series here)

Despite how we are taught how to read, most of the reading we do is what I call “Active Reading”. Reading recipes as we cook, taking in road signs and reading maps as we travel, reading to spot specific information, comparing products while shopping, keeping track of sports statistics, scanning a newspaper for the weather are all forms of active and practical reading.

Learning how to read is important because reading skills are used literally every day, and Active Reading is reading for daily life.

Now don’t get me wrong, I think sitting down to relax and recharge with a good book is on of the most simple and pleasurable things you can do, but I realize that this type of reading is not for everyone. By teaching kids, especially active kids, all the different applications for reading it helps them to see how valuable reading actually is – even if they have no desire to pick up a novel or book of poetry.

There are many activities that will help take the reading skills your child is learning and allow your child  to practice them through active reading.

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Closed Captioning and Karaoke

This is a simple exercise I frequently give to my students studying English as a Second Language. Most of them already watch English television programming to try to hear the enunciation of English words, but turning on the closed captioning significantly increases the benefits. Then you not only hear the words, but you see and read them onscreen – in essence, a double-whammy of learning.

Whenever you are watching a program as a family, turn on the closed captioning. You can also watch your kids’ favorite programs with them and turn it into a reading exercise by turning OFF the sound. Encourage your child to read the words as they appear on the screen!

There are plug-in machines, computer programs, even Karaoke DVDs that allow you to turn your living room into a music hall. Find some songs your child loves and be prepared to let loose. You’ll have so much fun, you won’t even realize they’re practicing reading!

Treasure Hunt/Obstacle Course

Creating your own treasure hunt or obstacle course for your family can be a bit of work, but it is a great way to be creative and have some fun as a family! Its gets you both reading and moving as you read clues and follow directions. You can also work in reading-related tasks such as reading a map or solving a puzzle for the next clue. You can even incorporate reading into the prize by having a book or magazine on your kid’s as the prize at the end of the hunt.

Word Games

There are many “old-fashioned” word games out there that are useful for word recognition, spelling, and reading. These games are usually quick, fun, and are simple enough that your children can learn them to play with their friends.

One of the classics is Hangman, or, if you don’t think the gallows are terribly appropriate for a kids’ game, Flowerpot. Start with the base of a flowerpot and draw the stem, leaves and petals of a flower as the game progresses. It might not have quite the same urgency as the traditional hangman, but it is a little more child-appropriate.

How to play: Draw a flower pot on a blank piece of paper. Beneath it write down spaces for a word or phrase for example: “I love to read!” would look like this: _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _!. Your child then guesses one letter at a time. If the letter is in the word, write it in the correct place. If it’s not, you draw a section of the flower. The object of the game is to guess the word or phrase before the drawing of the flower is complete.

Another quick game to play is Word Hunt or Anagrams. Write one or two words, with at least 6 letters each, at the top of a piece of paper. Working with your child, try to identify smaller words using these letters in different combinations. It can be fun for your child to find all the different words that can be spelled out of their names. Once your child gets older and learns a larger vocabulary, you can try games like Boggle and its various online incarnations.

Secret messages

Everyone, even kids, needs a secret or two. Exploring the world of secret codes, cryptograms and hidden messages can be a great way to encourage reading and writing, learn a little science, and have a lot of fun. One fun rainy-day activity for home are secret messages using invisible ink.

Lemon Juice Invisible Ink

You Need:

  • White paper
  • Lemon Juice
  • Plastic cup
  • Cotton swab, Q-tips or paint brushes

Put the lemon juice in the cup and dip the cotton swab, Q-tip, or paintbrush into the lemon juice.

Using your writing tool, write your secret message on a sheet of paper. Let the message dry and watch it disappear.

When you are ready to read the message, hold it up to, but not touching, a light bulb (not a CFL bulb though, you need the heat from the bulb). When exposed to light and heat, compounds within the lemon will break down and turn brown, allowing you to see the secret message! If you can’t see the message by exposing it to light, place the paper between several layers of newspaper and iron it for a few seconds. If you’ve replaced all the old lightbulbs in your house with CFL or LED bulbs, this might have to be your regular technique.

After teaching this activity to your child, you can write an invisible ink clues for treasure hunts!

Planning a Family Trip

Planning a family trip together presents lots of opportunities for Active Reading. Big trip or day-long adventure, letting your kids help plan the outing will give them a sense of ownership and pride, which in turn usually means they have more fun because they had some influence in the planning.

You can visit local tourism branch to find out what fun activities are going on in or near your community, or you can do internet research and plan your trip using Google Maps, or you can read literature together and decide where to go. You can even look at the menus online for possible restaurants. All of these things require reading. Trip planning might take a little bit longer when you involve the kids, especially if they are just learning how to read, but it could result in a less stressful trip that everyone is excited for.

How do you practice Active reading in your house? Do you have in interesting ideas to share? Please leave a comment below!

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