“Do as I say, not as I do” is a colloquialism that has been around for centuries. The idea behind this phrase is that simply telling our children the behavior we want to see is enough to inspire them to make positive choices. How does this relate to reading and writing? Simple. If we want our kids to be avid readers and writers, WE have to model these behaviors in front of them. As parents, or teachers, our attitudes toward reading and writing shape the way our children recognize and appreciate the value of these skills. Having your child sit beside you as you read a book or magazine and while you are writing a note to a friend helps children to see the significance of reading and writing as a necessary part of everyday life. Talk to your children about what you are reading and writing. Kids need to understand that adults also have a variety of reasons to read. Perhaps you are reading a textbook for a class you are taking, reading a policy manual for work, or just reading for fun. In the same way, when you are writing, explain what you are writing and why you are writing it to your children. Engage kids in conversations about why you read and write every day. When kids know the WHY behind your reading and writing, they are more motivated to read and write themselves.
So, you have them hooked. Now what? NOW the real fun begins! Once you have piqued their interest, you have to make reading and writing materials readily available to them! Dust off your library cards and take a field trip to your local library. Have your kids choose books on topics that interest them. Purchase fun stationery and other writing supplies to enhance their writing projects. Have them read their books to you and display their writing around the house! Have them call grandma and read an exciting excerpt from their book over the phone, and write letters to friends and family that live a distance away. You can even establish pen pal relationships with children in a different state…or even a different country! The possibilities are endless! The most important thing to remember is to keep these activities fun and engaging. Have conversations about topics they are interested in and the reading and writing enjoyment will happen naturally. But, remember, parents are the most important models of desired behavior. So, keep modeling good habits by reading and writing in front of and with your children.