Now I’m obviously not an expert, but we are 7.5 years into this parenting thing, and I would like to think we have done something right in regards to teaching our kids to love books, because they seriously both really love books!
I remember when Abigail was a baby, and we had mounds upon mounds of board books, and I used to force myself to read them to her while she literally stared at the wall or the ceiling fan, and at the time it felt useless. Why in the world should I read to a baby? The American Academy of Pediatrics shares that an “important part of brain development occurs within a child’s first three years of life, and that reading to children enhances vocabulary and other important communication skills.” So despite the wall and ceiling fan stares I pressed on. No, I did not read for hours and hours a day, but books were always readily available in our home. We read often to her, and one of her favorite activities soon became reading.
When Alex came along, he was very different than Abbie. She was an early talker. I can remember her jabbering audible sentences by around 18 months. Alex turned two and was barely saying much. I was just beginning to worry about his langugage skills, when all of the sudden one day something clicked, and he honestly talks more than his sister now! He didn’t seem as interested in books, but with time, and using some of the tips I am going to share with you today, he too has become an avid book lover!
Now there are about a million different types of lists like”books you should read to your child by kindergarten,” but honestly those types of lists make my head spin. I don’t need more rules. I don’t need more “to-dos.” We can easily overcomplicate so many things in our lives, by over-analyzing, and over googling because we as parents don’t want to screw it up, but let me encourage you….stop googling how to teach your child to love reading, and just read. It’s really that simple. I used to live in fear of not following the “rules” of all of the to do lists that seem to exist as a new parent, and about 30 seconds in told myself “forget that!” I just need to try to be the best me I can be. So if you are looking for a simple, uncomplicated way to make reading a priority in your home then please read on…
#1 Give your children access and time for books. Make a space for books in your home. It can be a shelf, or a cute basket…or make them fit into the decor of your home, but make them easily accessible to your children. There are even age appropriate board books for younger children that aren’t so easily torn. The second part of this one is allowing your children time. It feels like parenting in today’s world is so much busier than I remember being as a child. We seem to all be going 100 miles an hour from one activity to the next. We do our best to keep life simple, but nevertheless despite my husband and I’s best introverted efforts we cannot always be hermits 🙂 and we do need to some social things. So analyze your life, and activities and make sure your family is involved in what you want/need to be involved in, and don’t let your activities dictate your priorities. YOU get to decide what your priorities are. We almost always have books in the car, or in a tote bag to take to a meeting, etc so that the kids can choose a book to read wherever we are whether at home or on the go.
#2 Model a love (or at least an interest) of reading. Now as adults it is hard to find time to read, and many of us don’t love to read, but reading is still a huge part of our lives. Make time to model that for and with your kids. I find it’s so easy to turn on the TV to distract the kids so I can have some quiet time, but it amazes me when I force non TV time, what the kids come up with to do. Today I caught them gathering almost every pillow from the house, and turning our Family Room into one huge nest where they snuggled up together to read. I took a few minutes to read them a few books, and then joined the nest with my own book to read next to them:
I typically spend a few minutes each morning in my devotion time, reading my bible, or a bible study book, and often times my kids will wake up and come snuggle up next to me. It doesn’t have to be a huge part of your life, but when kids see their parents model reading, it makes it a lot easier for that love/interest to develop in them as well.
#3 Utilize your local library. We used to be frequent fliers at the library, but you really don’t have to be to encourage a love for books. When Abigail was younger we went almost once a week, but when Alex was born, everything was just harder. Harder to get out the door, a harder baby, harder toddler, harder ….well you get the idea. His behavior made me not even want to go anywhere anymore so our trips to the library became less frequent, but we still get to utilize this free resource. When we go we get lots of books….seriously, we check out like 20-30 books at a time. We each pick out some, and then I renew them for the maximum time which I think is 3 weeks each time, and you can renew that for 2 more times which means I can keep these books for 9 weeks. That means I really only get to the library probably 5 or 6 times a year, but for younger kids it works out well anyway because by the time I return those books, Alex has them memorized which is such a great learning tool for him to work on comprehension, repetition, recognizing letters, and sounds, etc.
#4 Let them choose their own books. This one is HUGE! Those book lists of award-winning books to make your child a scholar by age 5 that I mentioned earlier….this is where I threw that out the window. I can almost guarantee you that no 3 year old boy is going to be interested in a book about a pink pony named Muffin who had adventures with a dog named Bear. Do you know what 3-year-old boys think about? Dirt, sand, dump trucks, diggers, trains, planes….you get the idea. So let your kids be themselves. Allow them to express themselves through their choices in literature by getting to choose what to read. This doesn’t mean that we should allow our kids to read whatever trash that they come across, but when you are parenting young children, this really isn’t much of an issue in my experience with young children’s picture books. It becomes an issue on quality and content with more mature readers as you start to monitor what they may have access to (random side note Abigail did bring home a few Barbie picture books once, and quite honestly the way they talk to each other made me feel stupider just reading them so I encouraged her to pick something else next time, but she still had a vast array of books to choose from that were of interest to her. I gently nudged her away from books that I didn’t really feel were appropriate, but still allowed her many other books to choose from).
So here are a few favorites that my kiddos are loving right now:
He absolutely loves the series of books on all different types of transportation by the McMullans. They are very interactive, and honestly entertaining as an adult to read as well! Here are a few of his favorites:
The Magic Animal Series by Sue Bentley- Magic Pony, Magic Puppy, Magic Kitten, etc (you name an animal she probably has a book on it!) No matter what animal it is Abigail loves them! She is reading well above grade level, and what I’m finding is hardest for her is to find age appropriate books for her (going into 2nd grade) but that are at an appropriate level with not too much mature content. We tend to stick to the books with amimal characters which helps a lot with staying away from books with content that is too mature.
I hope these tips are helpful as you find ways to encourage your own kids to read, and figure out what methods work best for your family.