I never really got into reading as a child. Maybe it was because I wasn’t a fast reader or I would say the word wrong in class when I was reading and everyone would laugh. I just learned that instead of reading I could make everyone in the room laugh. I don’t want the same for any of my children so I have been looking more and more into how I can help my son gain a love for reading.
By far the most effective way to encourage your children to love books and reading is to read aloud to them, and the earlier you start, the better. Even a baby of a few months can see pictures, listen to your voice, and turn cardboard pages. I remember when our son was little I would hold him in my arms rocking him back and forth while reading to him the many books we’d keep close by: The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Goodnight Moon, Goodnight Gorilla and The Little Engine that Could.
We would make this time together a special time when I hold him and share the pleasure of a story without the distractions of TV or telephones. You may be surprised to find that a child will calm down much better in a room where you are just reading to them instead of trying to calm them down with your TV, phone or just putting them right in their bed.
Now that he’s getting older, I haven’t stopped taking the time to read aloud even though he can’t read alone. He does like to look at many different pages and points at the pictures and tells me what he sees. This shared enjoyment will continue to strengthen your children’s interest and appreciation.
Simply having books, magazines and newspapers around your home will help children view them as part of daily life. Most important is your example of reading frequently and enjoying it will reinforce that reading is enjoyable. This is especially why I have tried to read more, but having married a school teacher, we definitely have books and magazines all over the home because we want to learn more.
Since our son is still small, we have started a home library for him, even if it’s just a shelf or two. Our personal favorites for his library are BabyLit, and any board book we can get our hands on. Just make sure to keep some books for little children to handle freely. They are going to see you grabbing and reading books, so they will want to read them themselves. I can’t tell you how many times I have walked in my son’s room to see him on his bed reading to his bike, stuffed animals and just laughing to himself.
When you have little kids they are always tearing pages, spilling and just enjoying them, at least that’s what they think they are doing. Allowing little children to touch, smell, and even taste books will help them develop strong attachments. But make sure you get books that can handle the little kids. We love board books (of course) but Indestructible books are great because their pages are water proof, tear proof and kid proof. You could even throw them in the washing machine if you needed to.
How you handle books will eventually influence how your kids treat them. Children imitate, so if they see that you enjoy reading and treat books gently and with respect, it is likely that they will do the same. Don’t just throw your books around the house, take care of them and your children will learn from your example.
When you read aloud together, choose books that you both like. I can’t tell you how many times I have sat down to read a book to my son and can’t stand continuing. Sometimes there are books for kids you can’t get through. If a book seems dull, put it down and find one that is appealing. If you are like us, your child will probably have a few favorites that you will have to read over and over but don’t stop just because you are sick of reading them. Repetition is important for children’s cognitive development. Try having your child sequence or retell the story. Ask questions about the pictures and encourage your child to participate in the reading process.
One approach is to look for award-winning books. There are two famous awards for children’s literature made each year by the American Library Association that are good indicators of quality work: the Caldecott Medal for illustration and the Newbery Medal for writing. But these are given to only two of the approximately 2,500 new children’s books published each year.
The best help of all, though, is at your neighborhood library. I was never a library goer growing up because if I wanted a book I would just buy it. When you go though, don’t hesitate to ask for help. The children’s librarian is trained to help you locate specific books, books that are good for reading aloud and books on a particular subject recommended for a particular age group. It’s great!
Now we try to go to the library weekly with our son. Sometimes to just read their books, others to check out our own and occasionally to attend their story time. The library also has many book lists, including ones like those mentioned above and probably some published by the library itself. There’s nothing like just browsing through the many books available at your library until you find ones that appeal to you and your kids.
The most important thing is to read together. Make sure that as you read together you are touching your child, place them on your lap or put your arm around them. Studies have shown that that physical connection creates a natural bond between parent/child and they will have positive associations with reading because of it. Make it a goal to read at least a book a day to your child. You will find that you can’t just read one and you will have a hard time putting them down.