Reading “Short” Essays with Kids Daily to Develop Confidence, Patience, and Comprehension

I’ve heard it many times before. Bridge books are scary. They’re long. They have less pictures, etc. There’s a constant issue of kids not wanting to read with their parents or do not want to move on to the next level. They see a thick book and they run. I’ve found that it’s not the hard text they run from. Maybe it’s the sheer length of time you’re requesting of them. For my kids, I didn’t ask anymore than 1-2 minutes of their time at a time when they were two. This is why we looked and pictures and read words here and there. At age three, the time we spent “studying” Chinese took as long as they could hold their little attention spans. We slowly developed stamina and I followed their lead on the “time” spent on our so called “studying.” I would sneak in an extra minute every few weeks or when I see they are engaged, even two or three more minutes. At the end of age three, I’ve found that story times increased to be about 20 minutes of patience. Self reading at the beginning of age three was still a few short minutes.

Nowadays (my three year old just turned four), she can read with zhuyin for about 20 minutes on her own. If I wanted her to read without zhuyin (phonetic assistance), I would read with her and I recently started her off on SHORT ESSAYS. I couldn’t find any easy short essays anywhere on the web so I just took 康軒’s lower elementary level “read one a day book” (閱讀易上手) and started that with her. It takes less than five minutes and I can have the chance to talk about a few idioms and phrases with her. We are looking for bite sized progress on a daily basis but that doesn’t mean it is slow. Many people think you have to have them read a certain amount of pages, etc. This isn’t necessarily true. More is better I agree but it depends when the marginal utility of their happiness diminishes.

For self reading hard passages, I find it to be five minutes at this age. Everyday I ask for one hard reading, and one easy reading that they do on their own. Doesn’t take very long but at least there’s progress. From December of last year until now (about four months), I’ve gotten her very comfortable with reading without zhuyin. My four year old is still not at her sister’s level (turning six this year), but she’s slowly developing stamina and good habits to get there. I highly recommend always finding something slightly above their level and keep it short and sweet. It’ll boost their comprehension level very fast and it doesn’t need to be a lot everyday but as long as you keep it consistent, you’ll see a huge difference in a few short months.

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