I have many goals for my children but encouraging them to love reading is high on that list. When I was a child I was blessed with parents that knew the importance of reading and frequently bought me books or took me to the library. Among my fond memories of childhood is the summer that my father was doing some masonry work for the local library. Each morning I was able to go to work with him and hang out in the library. I would read until it was time to go get lunch and then come back and read all afternoon. For some that may not sound great but I loved it. At home I read many books and even had books I enjoyed so much that I would get to the end and start all over again! I want my children to have that same love of reading.
One of the ways that we share a love of reading is our book cabinet. We have a large cabinet in our dining room that holds our art supplies and we use the top of it as our ‘book cabinet’. I pick out a theme, sometimes based on a holiday, something we are studying, or something for fun. For example, in February we did Valentine’s Day and then the end of the month and first of March, Dr. Seuss’s Birthday. Then we have a “Spotlight on….” display on top of the cabinet. I display a variety of books on that topic and often use a window marker to write the topic on the mirror behind the books. The children are not required to read the books but are welcome to get them down to read at any time. I typically trade the books our about every two weeks. I have found this is a great way to get them to pick up books that might otherwise get ‘lost’ on our overflowing bookshelves. As a bonus, it doubles as holiday decorations!
Children, particularly young children, love to mimic adults. Reading is no exception. One of the most effective strategies I have seen for encouraging a love of reading is for parents to model that love. It can be challenging even for those of us that truly love reading when there are so many other things that vie for our attention. However, it is important that we make time to read in front of our children and talk about books that we enjoy. I want them to see that reading is fun and pleasurable not a monotonous task that has to be checked off the school list. I’ve been slacker about this than I should be lately, but I’ve made reading goals for this year and I have been doing much better. I may only read 10 or 15 minutes a day but I am making progress on my list and enjoying myself. I made it a point this year to include a mix of non-fiction, fiction, and even some young adult fiction on my list to help broaden my horizons. I have even compiled a list of a few favorites if you need help getting started.
Reading aloud is another powerful strategy that can help foster a love of reading from infancy through adulthood. Reading aloud is one of those techniques that is widely used with very young children but often forgotten as children get older. I urge you to continue to read aloud even as your children grow. My middle school son still enjoys our family read aloud times and honestly one of my fondest memories of a college class is a professor reading a children’s book aloud. We read a variety of books from short picture books to long chapter books like the Chronicles of Narnia. During days and times when I just cannot read aloud myself, we use audio books. In addition to encouraging a love for reading, read alouds give your family common stories and knowledge that helps strengthen family bonds.
There are many ways to encourage children to love reading and I think it is well worth the time to incorporate multiple strategies into your daily lives. If all else fails you can always have them read a book that includes their picture on the cover and stories about their lives…. but we might be taking things a bit too far!
Day 2 – Fostering Independence
Day 3 – Encouraging Reading
Day 4 – When College Isn’t the Next Step
Day 5 – homeschooling with the Brain in Mind