As an English teacher, and a parent who cares about my child’s desire to learn, reading is a must. Fortunately, so far my three-year-old loves to read. It’s usually the first thing he asks to do when he wakes up in the morning or after a nap, and of course, is an essential before nap and bedtime. However, my little man would also be happy to be read to at any time!
In addition to reading aloud, we have a monthly subscription to Audible and we listen to audiobooks in the car. When he was two I had the bright idea of letting him listen to Audible before bed, thinking it would help to decrease the whining and asking for more books at night. I was so proud of myself! We read two books together (as is so important for snuggles and relational connection), and then I told him, “Finn, I’ll put on a story and you can fall asleep to the story.” Well, I went to check on him two hours later, (10pm) and he was still lying there, eyes glassy, but wide open, listening to stories.
I’ve had a couple of individuals, including his teachers at pre-school, ask what we do at home that has helped him to love reading so much. Here are my few tips:
1. Read from the moment your child is born (or even while they’re still on the inside!)
Having just had my second child seven months ago, I know how tedious it can be to make the time to read to the second child (and I can only imagine how it gets crazier with each new addition); however, I am convinced that reading lots of books from babyhood is what helped Finn to get hooked! We started with one book a day for the first few weeks and then increased it (as was suggested by the nurse in our birthing and parenting classes); by six months we were reading at least twelve books a day. I would select the books, put them in a pile and begin reading. And he listened and looked. Baby Tyler loves to grab, taste and feel, but we read. And he’s learning now that books are to be treated with care – they aren’t for gnawing!
2. Allow for choice
I don’t select the books that we’ll read every day. I let Finn choose. Oftentimes I will require that we read at least one Bible story to start our day; however, after that, he can choose. And when he wants to read the same book, over and over again (even the books referred to by daddy as the ‘boring books’ – you know the ones you try to hide so the kids can’t find them) read it – again and again. It aids in language development.
When kids learn to love to read, they’ll want to read more. We started with a LOT of Dr. Seuss when Finn was young. Due to the rhyming nature of the books, by two years old he was finishing the sentences with rhymes and was able to rhyme words on his own. Now, at three, he loves the typical “boys” books: anything about dinosaurs or sports. He also asks for us to read The Magic Schoolbus chapter books – about the food chain and magnetism – all because it’s in a story. So let your child select the book (as long as it’s age-appropriate, of course) and read away!
3. Carve out the time to read
Sometimes all of this reading can take a significant bit of time. This morning, we spent a couple of hours reading, book after book after book. I had to take water breaks. But I make the time for this and encourage it. When he asks for another book, I do my best to show enthusiasm to read the next one (even if I feel parched). Enjoy this time; it’s short. Cuddle up and savor the stories.
4. Have a good selection of books to choose from
My favourite method for acquiring books is to go to our local thrift shop and buy books. I can get two grocery bags full of books for $8. It’s crazy. So yes, I mostly shop for books second hand and choose books of every genre and subject: fictional books based on math, stories about butterflies or dinosaurs, chapter books, fairytales, folk tales, series, Disney stories, character books such as Clifford or the Bernstein Bears, historical fiction, books by favourite author and the list goes on.
Of course, we are also members at our library (I actually just got Baby Tyler’s membership today!) and we regularly check out books from our youth library. There are times when I purchase books new for a special occasion (Christmas and birthdays) and a good friend and I just did a book swap for our boys; this was also a great way to get some new reading material without having to spend any money.
5. Just read
Sometimes the English teacher in me will ask questions while reading, but I do my best to keep this compulsion under control. Kids love to read for the joy of the story. Forcing “comprehension questions” while reading can kill the joy. So don’t ask “why” or “where” all of the time. Take lots of time to just read for the love of the story. The moments for questions will come (and I do ask questions about the title, the pictures, and for predictions), but prioritize the love of reading before assaulting your child with questions to check for understanding.
Don’t be surprised if after all this reading you begin to hear bizarre phrases in your child’s daily conversations. Be encouraged when you hear your child take the language they’ve heard from a book and apply it to a new situation in his/her daily life! A couple of days ago I was carrying Finn up some stairs and he proudly stated, “Wait a minute… don’t I recognize your hips?” Bizarre, but language from a book; it makes me smile.