During a Jan. 27 parent meeting with Dawn Little of Links to Literacy at Panaca Elementary, the main question on everyone’s mind seemed to be: “How can I teach my children to love to read?”

According to Little, it’s as easy as reading with them.

As Little started her presentation in the computer lab, she stated that when children see others reading, it encourages them to do so as well. She explained that, statistically, 87 percent of children enjoy reading aloud, and 82 percent of parents enjoy it as well. Thus, parents should be participating in the reading process as much as possible. She went on to say that reading out loud improves students’ understanding of all subjects, not just literacy-based ones like reading and writing, and she also mentioned that children who read aloud often outperform their counterparts.

Little shared some guidelines to help parents encourage children to read. She said children should be allowed to pick books, as they will most likely pick something that they will enjoy, which will increase their chances of being engaged in the process.

Next, children should be allowed to talk about whatever they want concerning the books they have chosen, and parents should address any of their questions so that they are equally engaged in the process.

Following up on this, parents should ask children questions about what they’re reading, and both parties should make comments about what they find entertaining to keep children focused on the story.

Parents were told to encourage the kids to speak up, but stop reading when children are bored or want to move on, since forcing children to read often has detrimental effects on their desire to do so.

To practice these guidelines, Little read aloud with the parents using the book “Llama Llama, Red Pajamas.” While some parents felt a little uncomfortable being read to, the purpose of the exercise became clear as Little invited the parents to chime in, asking questions about the details of the pictures.

She defined big words like “fret” and “tizzy” in the book, utilizing them in sentences and using context clues to help people understand their meaning. It helped that a few of the parents had small children with them during the meeting, since they asked questions and commented on the book in a way that gave the parents a real-world example of the principles being taught.

Some of the main concepts Little wanted the parents to cover with their children were things like concepts of print (which direction they should read, which page to start on, etc.); letter-sound logic (‘A’ makes the sound ‘ahhhh’); vocabulary and comprehension. She also stated that other sources children can use to improve their reading include magazines, newspapers and even junk mail.

One of the last parts of the presentation discussed the importance of books, and how they teach things like compassion and how to understand other cultures.

While everyone in the meeting agreed that it’s sometimes hard to instill a love of reading in children, many walked away with a new appreciation for books and a newfound desire to read with their kids.

If you want to know more about Links to Literacy, visit their website at linkstoliteracy.com, or contact Little at dlittle@linkstoliteracy.com.