First of all, a while ago I wrote this post called Why You Will Not Find Tutorials Here, and I stand by it. Yet I also think I have some insight on helping kids love books. It’s so easy today to let kids do anything but read books, but I hope you will shower your children with books so that they will learn to love reading!
I thought about doing a bunch of research so I could give you statistics about kids who read a lot, but I don’t think that’s necessary. (Read these Benefits of Reading if you want to know more about that.) You know it’s important to read. And “a lot” is such a generic term. Who cares if someone else reads more than your kid? Lots of people read lots more than I do because I’m a pretty slow reader. But I love books, and I want my kids to grow up loving books too. So far, they do.
Do you want to help your kids love books too? Here, I’ll share some things that could help you. Of course, every child is different, but perhaps some of these will be helpful, or at least interesting.
Don’t Go for a Marathon
While I’m pretty sure my 5-year old could listen to me read an entire book in one day, my 3-year old and my 1-year old would not allow it. Believe me, it’s tempting sometimes to lock my other children in the bedroom while my 5-year old and I cruise through stacks of books.
But that’s not necessary. Small spurts of reading are very empowering.
Teaching Quiet Time
We all know that most kids are loud. And if they’re not loud, they probably love to make some kind of noise and move around. But it’s okay to have 15 minutes of focused reading time. I’m still working on this with my kids, but I believe it will one day be an easy reality! I think so much of parenting is just continuing. I haven’t yet seen the results that I want, but I think that’s because I have an 18 month-old, and a very active, very kinesthetic 3 year-old. But I will keep going because this is important to me and I believe it will benefit my children too.
Read About What Interests Them
I know you probably want to read those beautiful old books from your childhood. “Little Women” or “Nancy Drew” or whatever. But letting your child go to the library with you and choose a book (probably based completely on the cover) can be great fun for them. I have one son who will always fill our bag with Clifford or Berenstain Bears. While there aren’t many books that I oppose, I would always choose the original Curious George over Clifford and Berenstain Bears. I still let my son bring these home because these are books that he will sit with at home and look through, even if he doesn’t read every word. Which brings me to another point…
Let Them Look
It is absolutely, perfectly fine and acceptable for children to look through books before they can read. This will build their interest and make teaching them to read easier. My boys love to check out the “Lego Star Wars Visual Dictionary” and they will sit together and look at it for hours. (Sometimes I have to break up a fight, when one boy takes more than half the book for his lap, but they’re usually pretty civil due to their mutual intrigue.)
Give them Access
I think that part of the reason my kids love books is because they have always had access to books. In our old house, we had a half-wall of built-in bookshelves and they were mostly filled with actual books. Not knickknacks or empty vases, not even very many photos. Just books. Books of all ages and styles, all sizes and genres.
From the moment my children could touch things, they were touching books. When my firstborn was as young as 1-year-old, he would sit on the floor quietly and page through a book, looking at the pictures and feeling the paper. My younger two children are total book-destroyers. They have even torn up several of our cardboard books, so I have to watch them a little closer. But all of my children love books and I think that’s because they have always had access to books. Books have always been considered toys to them. Whenever they handed me a book, I would open it and read, even if my child walked away after a few words.
Read What Interests You
I know that a few points ago, I said to read what interests your kids, and I stand by that. But it’s also important for your children to see the books that you love to read. Of course, discretion needs to be made here. If you’re reading racy or inappropriate books, it’s probably best not to share them with your kids.
Earlier this year, I read “Ghana Must Go”. This is in no way a book that my children should be reading. But one day, I was reading it during nap time and my 3 year-old woke up. He came and sat on my lap and asked me to read it to him. And I did read a few pages, censoring anything that he didn’t need to hear. Luckily, those pages were pretty serene so I didn’t have to sensor much.
This year I have been inspired by Ellen from Cutting Tiny Bites to read chapter books to my children. So far this year, we have read “The Mouse and the Motorcycle”, “Peter Pan” (adapted), “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” (adapted), “Stewart Little”, “Gulliver’s Travels” (adapted), and “Space Taxi”. While my 3-year old still wanders around while I read long books like these, that’s okay with me. Often I’ll read while my children finish their breakfast, while they color, while they build blocks. They don’t have to be sitting still, cuddled next to you, in order for you to read. (Though it’s awfully lovely when they do.)
When I’m reading, I find it helpful for my 3 year-old to have something to color. He thinks it’s especially funny if the picture he’s coloring goes with our book. For instance, a pig or a spider when reading “Charlotte’s Web”.
If your child is still at a very sensory-explorer age, that’s okay. You can still read to them and encourage them to read, too!
Do your children love books too? What tips would you give?