Read to me, the fennec fox. I'm all ears!

Six Ways the Zoo Can Stimulate Your Kids’ Interest in Reading

booksGuest blogger: Kristina Meek, Education Intern

Let’s face it; some kids just don’t love to read. You know how important reading can be to school success and for life in general. Yet you may find yourself pleading just to get your child to read the simplest assignment, never mind perusing books for pleasure.If your child loves the Zoo, it could provide a sneaky way to crack his or her resistance. Read on for six ideas to try.

Balance like a Lemur sign
Jungle Trails is a great exhibit to explore as a family. (Photo: Shasta Bray)
  1. Prepare for your Zoo visit by browsing the Animals section of our website. Each animal has a short description and list of pertinent facts. Together, you and your child can browse and decide which exhibits to prioritize when you get to the Zoo. Even pre-K children can take part by identifying the first letter in each animal’s name.
  2. Encourage your child to read the signs at Zoo exhibits out loud. When a child is excited about an animal, nudge him or her to learn a few facts about it by reading the sign. The Zoo’s signs tend to be easy to read for upper elementary students, but also use words that are likely new to the child. Reading a short bit of text won’t feel like a chore and can enhance the child’s enjoyment of observing the animal. Some of the signs even rhyme!

    Visitors create their own sign in Night Hunters (Photo: Shasta Bray)
    Visitors create their own sign in Night Hunters (Photo: Shasta Bray)
  3. Talk about word origin. Starting around seventh grade, kids learn to identify roots of words, which can help improve their overall vocabulary. For example, the word nocturnal (active at night) comes from the Latin root “noct” or “nox,” which also appears in the word equinox (the time when day and night are equal in length). Or, the scientific name for an Indian Rhinoceros is Rhinoceros unicornis. “Unicornis” comes from “one” and “horn,” because this species sports only one horn instead of the two that other rhinos have.
  4. Make an endangered species sign. In certain exhibits, such as Manatee Springs and Night Hunters, the Zoo offers interactive sign-making stations. Visitors can choose a species and assemble a message from suggested text and then send their creation to a friend. Kids express their creativity and support a cause while reading and learning.

    Read to me, the fennec fox. I'm all ears!
    Read to me, the fennec fox. I’m all ears!
  5. Ask your child to read to an animal. Studies have found that reading to dogs builds children’s confidence. Animals never judge, laugh, or correct pronunciation. If you have a dog, you can try this technique at home. But why not bring a book or e-reader to the Zoo and have your child read to an animal? The penguins in the Children’s Zoo tend to hang out and look at visitors as if they’re listening to what you’re saying. Try other calm, quiet animals like a camel or a manatee! Stuffed animals can also do the trick, so visit the Zoo Shop on your way out.
  6. Keep the spirit of your Zoo visit alive. What sparked your child’s interest most? Maybe it was a specific animal or plant, or perhaps it was an idea for a future career in animal care. Search for books, websites, or apps that relate to that interest. Ask your child regularly about what he’s been reading. You’ll help him comprehend and retain what he’s read.

What are you waiting for? Start cultivating those reading skills today and plan your next outing to the Cincinnati Zoo!