Reducing Anxiety of Reading
My daughter started at a new school two years ago and I walk her there every day. About halfway along there's a rise in the footpath, followed by a small drop off, about knee-high to an adult. Every day we hold hands and leap off that wall, together. Most days our feet will land at exactly the same time, and we're absolutely delighted with our synchronicity. We laugh, and run a few steps, excited. Some days we slightly miss and we're disappointed. We shrug it off by saying we'll try again tomorrow.
I pondered about why we enjoy this so much and one of the reasons I came up with is that holding hands takes away the anxiety of leaping off the height - even for me, as an adult. When the anxiety is removed, we don't hesitate. Our only emotion left is thrill.
Another reason is that we just love being together. We love the closeness of holding hands and sharing experiences.
The third reason is that if we get it wrong - which we do sometimes - it's not such a big deal because we know we'll have another chance to do it tomorrow.
Funny thing is, when I walk back to school to pick her up in the afternoon, I always walk around that wall. I never jump off it by myself. Partly because I'm self-conscious that as an adult anyone observing me will think I'm crazy, but mostly because that shared joy isn't there. I want her company. I want to look at her face and see her reflected laughter.
So, what does this have to do with reading? Lots!
Humans are social creatures, so whether for a young child learning to read or a teenager who has disengaged, you can help make reading a joyful experience by making it shared. Reinforce the closeness by snuggling together - a young child maybe on your lap, your tween or teenager close by your side. And read. Cheer on the triumphs. Discuss the story. But if it doesn't work one night, that's okay, try the next. It's not a big risk - and not a big failure - when reading is spread over a long period. If reading at night is too busy, try something unconventional - maybe read aloud at the dinner table like we did last night (I always finish eating first anyway, and it's a better way to calm the dinner chaos than trying to constantly cajole kids to 'stop talking and eat'), or at breakfast when kids are up early and are a bit more peaceable, or even read to them while the kids are washing the dishes!
It's not just fear of failure that might stop children reading, it might be the subject matter itself. Scary books aren't so scary with a loved adult, and difficult books aren't so hard to understand with funny voices and instant dictionary provided by mum or dad.
Kids want to be involved where the fun is, so if you aren't reading, if you're busy doing something else, your child won't necessarily obey your request to read. But when you approach reading as a partnership, you're directing your enthusiasm and their attention and desire to the book.
You CAN give your child the confidence to read and the joy to make reading a lifelong pleasure. Just take their hand and leap together. WHEEE!
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