Share the Joys of Reading

Sometimes an article is so good, it bears repeating. This article by Francine Frisson was first printed in the "CPF National Newsletter" in 1989. Francine was a vice-principal in West Vancouver , B.C.

Parents of French Immersion students often realize the importance of reading to their children but feel at a loss when they cannot do so in French. They are concerned about their children's education and want to help. How can they help their child in reading when they themselves do not read French?

First of all, I am pleased with the interest parents take in the children's reading development. They can be congratulated! Then I let them know the most important thing is indeed to read to their children even though the language they have in common is not French. Reading is not simply being able to decode words, it is so much more.

It is really a positive attitude towards reading that we want to foster. The language used to encourage reading is not important. However, it is important for parents to be good models. It is often difficult to convince someone of the benefits of something if we cannot ourselves show an interest in it. Parents should spend time not only reading for themselves, but in front of their children.

The parents of students in a French immersion program can help their children in reading in many ways. I strongly encourage you to try some of the following activities.

  1. Read something to your child every day.  Choose from a variety of print material: fairy tales, picture books, comics, fiction, letters, newspaper articles, etc. Find a comfortable spot and a certain amount of uninterrupted time. It does not need to be a long time. Use your judgement, think of your child's attention span.
  2. Take your child to the library regularly. Teach him/her how to sign out books, how and when to return them, where to find them.
  3. Encourage your child to create his/her own books. All you will need is glue, scissors, old magazines, crayons and a book. For younger children, you can write the story and they can illustrate it.
  4. Ask your child to tell you a story looking at a picture book or at a family photo album. Encourage him/her to think of as many things as possible. This might start with a description of what the child sees on the picture, then an interpretation or a memory. You could also ask questions to get more details.
  5. Encourage your child to participate in the story. He/she can do so by miming certain parts of the story or by making the appropriate noises which go with the story..."and then the witch laughed...HA HA HA!!!"
  6. Invite your child to retell you a story he/she read. This could be done with puppets, for example. Retelling a story is an activity which requires a lot of skills and is a very good exercise which will reinforce similar activities done in classrooms.
  7. Show your child there are all kinds of books. Not all books are story books. Some books help you to cook by giving you recipes and pictures of what a certain dish should look like. Some books help us with other projects like building a fence or repairing a blender. Books contain a lot of information which can help us do things better or understand things like why the cat is coughing.
  8. Make sure your child has a special place for his/her books, a comfortable chair or some pillows and a bookshelf. Many children enjoy organizing books. They will spend time putting all the big books together and all the little ones together. Later they might put all the comic books on a shelf, all the fairy tales on another and all the animal books on yet another. At a later time yet, they might organize their books alphabetically by author. These are great skills to develop.
  9. Most of all remember that you must be a good model. Books must be important in your life. Children must be given an opportunity to read to you, to see you reading, to be read to, to borrow books and also to buy their very own favourites. Talk to your children about books, a new book you bought on how to make baby clothes, or that book with all the fancy sports cars. Motivation to read and a positive attitude towards reading constitute a major part in the act of learning to read. Children will tend to be good readers if they undertake the task with enthusiasm.

As teachers we look after all the mechanical aspects of learning to read. We also spend time developing skills and fostering a positive attitude towards reading. It is in the areas of motivation, love and enthusiasm for reading that you can play a major role.

So don't worry about the language in which you foster those, instead be sure to spend time with your child and books.