Home is the first school house. And children’s attitudes about books and reading begin at home at the earliest ages.
Pretty much all children start out loving books. Young children display their love of books in all kinds of ways: piling them high to make towers; pulling them off the shelf; carrying them around in a wheel barrow; organizing them according to size, color, shape; turning the pages, or just chewing on them! All of these are early ways of experiencing books.
Most children love books because they are accompanied by a cozy, close time with Mommy or Daddy and their full attention. What could be better!
But forcing a child to sit still and read a book when he isn’t ready, or doggedly trying to get a child to recognize letters, recite their sounds are sure fire ways of turning a child off to reading. If reading becomes a chore, your child won’t hurry to do it, anymore than he hurries to brush his teeth.
I can promise you that your child will learn to read, each in his own time, when he is ready. And if reading is a part of your everyday life, if books are part of your world, if your child sees how your love to read and love your books, so will he…someday.
Here are some tips for encouraging a love of books and reading.
•Be a role model for reading. Let your child see you reading. Choose to read as an activity when you have an extra ten minutes (Hah!) Talk about what you have read, sharing your enthusiasm. He will learn that reading is an enjoyable activity that you treasure.
•Read as a family. Even after your children can read on their own, they’re still likely to enjoy it when you read aloud to them. Pick a chapter book (for children four and older) and make it a ritual to read it with them. Let your older child participate in the reading.
Or, have a family reading time where everyone sits together in the family room or in the garden on a lovely morning …and reads! Take turns talking about what you are reading. Share paragraphs, sentences, descriptions, words.
•Talk about books. Let your child overhear you telling your friends, your husband, your mother on the phone about the book you are reading. Let him hear how much you are enjoying it.
•Bring a book wherever you go. Let your child catch you reading…as you wait in the carpool line, as you wait for her to come out of her dentist appointment, as she plays in your yard. Make reading a treat that you allow yourself whenever you can squeeze in some time.
•Create a home library in a special place. Make that library accessible to even the youngest child and model how we treat books with such care. For the young, non readers provide picture books, books with texture, and very primary books with simple words. For older children, stock the library with a variety of reading materials: “old friend” picture books, resource books, story books, joke books, riddle books, fiction, non fiction, art books, even comic books.
•Visit the library. Even in this day of the internet, the library is still a great resource for books of all kinds. You can borrow ten books at a time. Wow! Children don’t need to own their books, and using the library teaches them to share, to be responsible, and to use different skills than does Google.
•Unplug the TV! The television (and other such screens) has become an invasive influence in our homes. Too often it is to the detriment of our children’s recreational reading. If TV isn’t a choice, then reading just might be!
•Use reading as a special reward. Read an extra book or story when your child has done something worthy of a reward or praise.