I don’t have to tell you how important reading is. Every parent knows the importance of being able to read. But how can we encourage our children without putting too much pressure on them?
Our son began reading at an early age, and we were thrilled. But what was more important for us was that he would grow up with the same love of reading that we had. Now some of our favorite moments as a family is when we are able to all sit with a book and read. Our youngest isn’t reading yet, but she can sit happily and look through books and pretend to read them to us.
Some of the ways we have gotten our kids to love books and enjoy their reading time:
Read to them. We read to our children every night at bedtime. Many nights I read them to sleep and have to back up a page or two the next night because they missed parts. During our school year I read some of my son’s ‘read-aloud’ books to them at bedtime. During the summer I try and find a series they might enjoy. We have read the entire Little House on the Prairie series, Ricky Ricotta’s mighty robots, House of Robots. My husband will sometimes read parts of the book he is currently reading or pick up a children’s classic such as Wind in the Willows. The kids don’t mind what book it is at bedtime, just so they hear a story.
We look for new books. We have plenty of books on our bookshelf at home, but much like me… looking for new books is pretty exciting. When I say “new”, I am not necessarily talking about going to a bookstore and purchasing a brand new book. My kids don’t mind if someone else has already read the book. We have found some great books at thrift stores for .25 cents each. We love going to the library and checking out books. Our library also has a “friends of the library” book store. They sell these books for extremely cheap and the money is used by the library to purchase more books. Our library is part of a HUGE library system across the state of Georgia. If our particular library doesn’t have a book we want they can request it from another library in the system.
Have the books easily accessible. I used to keep our children’s books in their closet. It was great because you know how messy a full bookshelf can look. But then we decided mess or not; the kids just weren’t really looking at the books. Now we have it in our living room. Sure that corner or our living room looks less than tidy, but the trade off makes it a huge win. The books are always a mess haphazardly tossed back on the shelf…. because they are constantly being looked at. I will often stand a book up on the little shelf and it will inevitably find it’s way into their hands before the end of the day. This strategically placed book shelf has led to many conversations of “hey mom, did you know…” from something he read in a book.
Help them find books they love. My son has been loving the Diary of aWimpy kid series. He loved one and I went crazy trying to find him more. He even has his Meemaw looking at the library near her work and she has list of the books he still hasn’t read. I have a few ideas for which series to try when he finishes this one (while we wait for Jeff to finish another book). I want to always keep his passion for reading going. Maybe he isn’t learning a thing while reading these books, but he is reading and I’ll take that over video games any day. (Also, the way he devours these books reminds me of my love for Baby-sitters Club books as a young girl.)
Engage your reader in their book. Ask them what is happening in their story. If you can, read a little of the book with them (or the entire thing). My son doesn’t just love reading his books, he also loves to share some parts of the book with us. Surprising him by having read part of the book ahead of him so that I can talk with him about the part he just read is always fun for both of us. Knowing the characters names and some of their tendancies and relating it to real life is a huge plus. We frequently relate back to books we have read in the past. Talk about the characters in the books as though they are someone we know. It helps to bring it more into the here and now and makes it feel more meaningful.
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Watching my son grow into a child that loves to read has been such a dream come true. We get up in the mornings and find him on the couch cuddled up in a blanket giggling to himself about something Greg Heffley (Diary of a Wimpy Kid) has done. He will finish his school work and rush over to his book and begin reading. He has carried them with him on short car trips, anytime he thinks he will be able to steal a minute away to read a few pages.