When I sat in my many English classes throughout college, I thought deeply about books. After moving I realized my obsession had gained a lot of weight (quite literally, I had probably 20+ boxes of books that I’ve moved across country twice and tenderly unpacked like Christmas morning). These books are old friends, badges of courage (Moby Dick, YES! I actually read it and sometimes even liked it). Some of the books are ones that I would never part with: Harry Potter, Jane Austen – yep, all of them, sometimes multiple copies of the same title, and I would be sadly non-inclusive if I did not mention all of the books that I have taught and carefully highlighted and covered in post-its like the Crucible or Night.
So seven years ago when my husband and I were expecting our first petite, it was clear that the first thing we needed to get our hands on for her nursery was a
crib bookcase. Most likely
two to house all of the books that
we had already purchased. We were the expectant parents that read to the burgeoning belly faithfully everyday. We discussed what it would be like to teach our daughter to read and how we could all share in the joys that reading would most certainly bring to our petite family.
After our daughter was born I transitioned from teaching at the secondary level to elementary school. It was the perfect fit for me, I loved working with the little kids and watching them learn to read and grow as readers. I also had some of my most memorable teaching moments working with struggling readers in the 4th and 5th grade and helping them find confidence in their reading through the vivid words of Roald Dahl. So as you can see I have spent a lot of time helping others to find their passions for reading, so it seemed only natural that would be the case with my daughters as well.
I have often been asked by friends and family, how I get my youngest to be so careful with books – or how we can hve a sustained silent reading time as a family on a Sunday afternoon for around 45 minutes. These have all been put into place over time. So I wanted to share with you how exactly we have grown our petites into the readers that they are now at seven and three years old.
1. Bedtime Stories.
We read every single night before bedtime. Sometimes it is while the kids are in the bath when we are crunched for time, other times it is a snuggle party and we read for longer than the 20 minutes that is recommended. This is usually one of the most relaxing points of the day and my husband and I take turns reading to the kids and now our oldest joins in and reads to us as well. Which is amazing.
2. Provide Constant Access to Books.
As I was thinking about putting this post together I walked through our house and counted the room and noted which rooms did not have books in them. Out of the 13 rooms in our house (I’m including the garage, coat closet and laundry room that I use as an office) we have books in 10 rooms. We also keep a bin of books in our cars for when we are driving.
3. Go to the library.
I have found that raising readers takes little money, especially if you can remember to return your books on time (which I never do, but that’s a different topic). We make a big deal about going to the library, we talk about what we want to look for and have special library bags. We place a lot of importance on what libraries in our community can do to help us learn and grow.
4. Let Your Kids Choose Their Books
It has been show that children who choose their own books and have interest in the topic can read at a higher level than if they are not interested. When this happens petites are able to build their reading confidence and grow into life long readers. Remember that even if the books they chose are not award winners, you know which books I am talking about, filled with characters found in their favorite TV shows, still rejoice in the fact that they are choosing books and are interested in reading.
5. Spend a lot of Time Talking About Books and Our Reading Habits.
My husband and I are avid readers. At any given time I am reading 3-5 books (mainly because I can never just read one book at a time, sometimes I read books based on my moods, so you need a few options, right?) My husband devours books at an alarmingly quick rate; and can remember even the smallest of details years later. We spend a lot of time talking to the girls about what they have read, what they liked or didn’t prefer about the books.
6. Read Many Different Genres.
We tout the importance of all of them. We read comics, non-fiction, fiction, historical fiction, maps, magazines, newspapers and of course an immense amount of picture books. All reading is beneficial, find what your petites love and get books all about it. If they love comic books, go for it! When they are learning to read always provide what they like even it is twaddle.
7. Get Excited About Books and Reading.
We make a big deal out of getting new books, whether the kids earn money for doing chores and choose to buy books or get special books as gifts for holidays and birthdays. We also get excited about books themselves, how they smell, how they sound when you crack one open, how very old ones need special care and handling, how important the stories are and why it is important we read stories and continue to learn.
8. Follow Your Petites Interests.
It is so important to always follow interests, even if they are fast and fleeting. That is why the library is so perfect, you really don’t have to commit or even spend a penny. You get to have thousands of books at your fingertips so when your three year old declares opossums are her favorite animal and the next week she is all about airplanes and maps you’re good to go.
9. Model What Readers Do.
This can sometimes be really hard, my husband and I do a lot of reading at night when the kids are asleep. But modeling what readers do is so important, we read inside and outside, in the car, we take books with us everywhere we go.
10. Reading Should Never Be a Punishment.
When your kids are old enough to start reading you may have the child that refuses to read on their own and puts off school assignments, punishing little ones with reading is never a good idea. On the flip side of that, if you little one is sneaking in reading time when they are supposed to be doing something else like chores or sleeping try to avoid “taking reading time away”. As a teacher I have seen kids sitting in class with a book not so discretely hidden in their lap, while they are supposed to be paying attention
This is what we do in our house. This weekend, we were all able to sit down and read for 45 minutes, it was amazing. My husband and I started reading and the kids slowly trickled in from playing outside, our three year old walked over to the overflowing library book bin and grabbed a book and snuggled up and started “reading”. Our oldest came a little later and made a gigantic pile of books and read with us. This is something we have worked towards doing, we’ve built in that capacity to sit still, to be engaged quietly. Of course, it doesn’t always work like that, but we strive to capture those little moments when we look at each other and silently smile knowing that we nailed it.