Thursday, August 18, 2016

Thoughts and tips on building a family of readers

Mom2MomEd Blog: Thoughts & tips on building a family of readers
Malea has shared some amazing ways to encourage your children to read. You can read them HERE and HERE. It really made me sit and think about ways that my husband and I model “reading” to our kids. 

Since both of my kids are pre-readers (they are 5 and 3) they obviously depend on having someone to read to them. After thinking about it, they are really the ones that drive the reading now. My son is now asking me to read him street signs, packages, and pretty much anything that we come across. My daughter is really into dictating lists, notes or letters and then has me read them back to her while she points at the words.

We are so lucky and excited that both of our kids are into books and reading, but how did that happen?

My husband and I were avid readers. That was our “thing.” 

We would lay in bed and read at night, in the mornings or whenever. We loved talking about what we were reading and sharing books and comparing notes. But then we had kids and both of us pretty much stopped reading. We were distracted, had a million other things to do, and, quite frankly, when I had some down time I wanted to sleep!

My point is, neither one of us were modeling the behavior to our children by reading ourselves.

What we did do is read to them from day 1. 

You read that right….day 1. 

As a new parent, I had some things that were really important to me like family dinners and a love of reading. (You can read about how I included my newborn in family dinners HERE). I vividly remember my husband and I holding our brand new baby and reading to him. Early on, we established a bedtime routine and would go into his room and rock him and read to him. We’d always do it together and we’d always hold the book up to show him the pictures. Looking back, some of that is silly….but, it was really important to us and who knows how much that has played a role in his love for reading.

When my daughter came along it was a little less silly since we were already reading to a toddler. It only made sense that she would lay there and enjoy a book with us.

I also have always taken my kids to the library, even when they were babies. I love the library. I loved going when I was a kid and I still love it now. It was so fun to bring a stack of new books home. I loved the smell of the library and it just has positive memories for me.

Of course, I want my kids to have the same!

We’ve done library storytimes with our kids too, but not consistently. We really spend most of our time walking up and down the aisles and picking random books to bring home. Occasionally, we will go looking for something specific (my son knows where the dinosaur section is), but most of the time we’re not looking for anything in particular.

Another thing that we’ve never done is use reading a book as a reward or a punishment. Meaning, we’ve never taken away stories at bedtime or used them as bribes to get something done. It’s just part of our life, our routine, and it’s not really open for discussion.

I’ve always rotated our books out and packed away holiday books so they feel new! I am a thrift store junkie and one of the top items I always look for is books. They are usually super cheap and you can buy a variety for just a few dollars. One particular thrift shop in my area sells little grab bags of books and those are always super fun to sort through. I periodically buy new books, pack up or donate old ones, and try to keep the selection at home fresh and interesting. We have our favorites that we read repeatedly, but mostly my kids seem to enjoy variety.

Also, for every holiday (especially Christmas) I have books that we love to read. I get them out every year with our decorations and then pack them up at the end of the season. My kids are always so excited to get those books out and to read them again. I think that because they are only out for such a short window they never really lose their luster. We read them over and over because we know we don’t have them for long and it’s really a fun part of our holiday traditions. So far I have Christmas, Halloween, and Easter covered. I am always on the look out for holiday books at thrift stores too.

These are just a few of the ways that we encourage reading at my house with two pre-readers. As they get older and are able to read to themselves maybe we won’t always lay on my bed at night and read. 

But, maybe we will. 

All I know is that I’m glad that we decided that it was important to us to read to our newborns and set the tone for reading early on.

What are some ways that you encourage reading in your children if they aren’t old enough to read themselves?  When do you incorporate reading into your day? Is it a consistent time or whenever it fits?

I’d love to hear from you!
Edited by Malea to add:  
First of all, did you know that simply having books at home can be a fairly good predictor for whether or not children will be readers later in life? Simply exposing children to books at home goes a long way! If you don't have books at home, or have only a very limited selection, do what McKenzie does and hit up thrift shops to find kid-appropriate books. Pick up a few books for yourself too.

Secondly, there is a huge drive in the United States to push reading at earlier and earlier ages. In fact, I am receiving more requests than ever for reading tutoring and instruction for toddlers. 

Tutoring for two year olds.

I am not joking. 

Here's the issue research is emerging (building on prior research with similar conclusions) that pushing reading skills early can actually backfire and result in WORSE long-term reading skills and habits. 

While we really want you to expose your children to books and great literature, we don't necessarily want you to force learning reading skills before your child is truly ready or WANTS to read or has NEED to read or before their school really requires it. 

  • Read TO your kids. 
  • Let them LOOK at books and MAKE UP their own stories if they aren't reading.
  • Point out pictures in books as you read TO your kids and ask them what they think is happening based on the context clues in the pictures. 
  • Leave books on the kitchen table, in the bathroom, on or next to beds, and in the car. 
  • Visit the library often.
  • Visit bookstores.
  • Have special books for special occasions.
  • Have books that celebrate something unique about your kids or your culture or your religion and so on. 
  • Rotate books at home.
  • Have book swaps with friends and their kids.
  • Get fun accessories like bookmarks and bookbags to make reading feel exciting (we've linked to a few below).
  • Give books and book related accessories as gifts. 

Let your kids enjoy books organically. 
And, let your kids BE KIDS.   

Feeling nervous about your kids' reading abilities or worried that they won't be ready for school if you don't start formal reading instruction at home? Not a family of readers and want to change that but don't know how?

Get in touch and let's talk about how Mom2MomEd might help! Get in touch with the comment box in our website sidebar or send us an email HERE (please no sales pitches, spam, or offers of any kind and do NOT sell our email address under any circumstances....).

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And, of course, we have to share some of our favorite bookish accessories:

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