Reading was one of my first loves. I would go downstairs in our big yellow house, turn on the Hooked on Phonics records and read until my little heart was content. Of course this was highly encouraged in my home, and I always saw my mom reading books – two critical components in creating literacy rich homes. I still cherish my “I learned to read on the first day of first grade” certificate. I remember bringing home a book to read to my parents. I was so proud! I always assumed my own kids would be the same way.
When I became a mom I knew I wanted to saturate her life with books. I read to her as an infant, it became part of our bedtime routine as a toddler, and continues to be part of daily life today. When my oldest was three years old, she was adamant that she wanted to learn how to read. But when she finally grew to the age many kids start reading, she fought it. She still loved being read to, and we could read for an hour straight, but she was a reluctant reader. I was starting to feel like a failure as a teacher and a mom.
I was forgetting one of the keystone concepts of education – let the student direct the interest. My husband brought home some free comic books one day, ones geared toward young girls. They immediately drew my daughter’s interest. It was still a while yet before my husband suggested we buy her a complete graphic novel for her to read. The light bulb came on. I took my daughter to the bookstore and together we selected a book that she was interested in and that was a challenging, but appropriate, reading level for her. I told her she needed to read it three times before we would buy the next one. In just a few short weeks her decoding skills have sky rocketed! Her comprehension is great, and most importantly, she LOVES reading that book!
I share this story with you to say that not all kids are born loving books. There are a few key components in creating a literacy-rich environment in which that love can grow. Books, books, books! Books in the living room, books in the bedroom, even books in the bathroom. Now, they don’t have to be just books, they can be magazines or newspapers too. But the more literature a child has access to, the more likely they are to pick something up. Another key piece is for your child to see YOU reading. This is the reason I still buy paper books rather than digital ones. If I’m staring at a device, my child doesn’t know whether I’m scrolling Facebook or actually reading. I like them to see me holding a real book.
Reading aloud is one the most important things we can do with our kids. Not only is it a great time to sit quietly snuggled up together, but the more books we read to our kids the bigger their world gets! Mystery, historical fiction, fantasy, science fiction – all of these bring us to new and exciting places. I encourage families to spend a minimum of twenty minutes a day reading aloud. And you know when your kid asks you to read the same book 2,285, 585 times? That’s actually really good for them. As they learn to read, the repetition helps build familiarity with the words and sound combinations. I have been known to hide a book or two for my sanity, but eventually they find their way back into the rotation once again. No matter how old your kids get, don’t give up on family reading time!
The final though I have to offer is to find what really interests your child. When they are excited about the book, their comprehension will increase, their enjoyment will increase, and they will be more inspired to want to read on their own.
Fostering a love of reading is really quite simple. Provide tons of reading materials, visit the library, go to story times, read together, find books your kid loves, and read for your own enjoyment. This is one of the greatest investments you can make for your child’s future!
The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease
Books Children Love, by Elizabeth Wilson
How to Grow a Young Reader,
by Kathryn Linkskoog and Ranelda Mack Hunsicker