“Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.”
— Emilie Buchwald
I saw a meme the other day that said that if you read one book to your child every day, you would have read 1825 books to them by their 5th birthday… I can’t remember exactly how the rest went, but all parents can probably guess the follow up… Good Night Moon 682 times, Where the Wild Things Are 592 times, <insert next favorite> 551 times…
But by all means, read every day to your children, even if it’s that same book over, and over. They are learning new vocabulary and correct sentence structure, lengthening their attention spans, and building their comprehension skills. Not to mention giving them a love of reading – which can be one of the best gifts you can ever give to your child. Reading to our children is such a simple thing – it can take no more than 20 minutes a day, yet it will reap a lifetime of benefits.
“So please, oh PLEASE, we beg, we pray, go throw your TV set away. And in its place you can install, a lovely bookshelf on the wall.”
— Roald Dahl
I know what you are thinking, this is a hard one to swallow in today’s day and age… but limiting screen time (to include smart phones, tablets, laptops, hand-held video games, television, etc.) would be a huge step in freeing up spare time to something more productive and fulfilling… like reading a book.
This will be much harder when they are older and more used to wasting time on electronic gadgets, but if you can start them early enough, books might have a fighting chance. Start them off with board books as a baby and absolutely read to them as much as possible. Teach them that stacks of books are more entertaining then stacks of DVDs.
I’m not one to ban all screens entirely, but I do require my children to meet certain requirements in order to “earn” their screens. They must finish their school work, do their chores and do something creative – whether that is practicing an instrument, working on a writing project or art. But if I notice they aren’t reading as much (or at all) I ‘ll add free reading to the list. I don’t care what they read so long as they do. But I don’t want to make it a chore to be gotten through in order to earn screen time. Ideally, when there are less screens to distract them, they’ll reach for books for entertainment.
“I have always imagined that paradise will be a kind of library.”
— Jorge Luis Borges
Take your child to the local public library regularly. As soon as they are old enough to write their name, have them get their own library card. Make it a big deal, and they will be proud of the accomplishment of becoming a “big kid with their own library card.” I let them have free reign over what they choose at the library – but I also choose a few interesting titles that I’d like to either read with them or strew in their path.
You can also get them excited about going to the new or used bookstore, more so than the toy store. My youngest loves to go to our local Barnes and Noble, mainly to play with the trains… But I can often entice her to choose a new books as well. We probably go there about once a month, so it is a treat to look forward to.
“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more you learn, the more places you’ll go.”
— Dr. Seuss
I want to encourage my children to not only read for pleasure, but for knowledge. While plenty of reading is assigned for school subjects, I don’t want them to only associate non-fiction reading with school. When they ask questions, or wonder about something, I will often say, “Good question. Let’s see if we have a book about that!” And then we’ll consult our home library. If I don’t have anything, we’ll take a trip to the public library. I want them to know that books hold answers to the mysteries of life. Along this same line, when I am curious about a topic, I’ll read about it, and often tell my children about what I’m learning. This way they can see that even grown-ups are still learning!
I also want my children to experience what life is like for other people. The best way to do that is through books. We might not be able to travel the world and talk to people from other cultures. But we certainly can read about them. I particularly look for novels that are written by people of the culture they are writing about. When they read books about the experiences of people who live far differently from themselves, they are building a sense of empathy, and learning that their experience isn’t the only one.
“Never trust anyone who has not brought a book with them.”
— Lemony Snicket
I want my children to be readers, so I want to lead by example. I have been a reader since I was a young child, so I always have books at hand. I want my children to see me reading not only for pleasure but to educate myself. When a child sees a trusted adult reading, they know that this is a worthwhile activity to pursue. Children are imitators, so give them good habits to imitate.
Growing up a reader will do much to educate your child. It will develop and enrich their vocabulary, give them interesting things to talk about and discuss, and create a sense of empathy for others. In short, reading makes you a better, more interesting human. So find other readers for your children to talk about books with. Join or start a book club with other kids their age, talk to the librarian at your local library, chat about what everyone is reading over dinner. You can even watch videos on YouTube (and make your own!) about books that you have read and loved. The book community on YouTube is fantastic, and a great resource for finding new reading material. Let them know that there is a whole world of readers out there to interact with.
Some great BookTube channels to get you started:
“A book is a gift you can open again and again.”
— Garrison Keillor
Every Christmas, Easter, birthday, and any other excuse to give a gift – I give books. I want them to know that books are important, but I also want them to know that they are fun! This is the perfect opportunity to give your children a fun art project book, a new journal for them to keep track of their reading, a childhood favorite of yours that you are dying to introduce them to, or a silly book of poetry or short stories. We want our children to learn from books, but we also want to show them that books can be just plain fun sometimes!
“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies, said Jojen. The man who never reads lives only one.”
– George R. R. Martin
My goal in both parenting and educating my children, is to give them a love of books. I want them to know that reading opens the world to them. They might be limited by other factors, but when you read a book, you can go anywhere, become anyone, and do anything. Reading opens other worlds that only exist in our imaginations, it guides us into the great conversation, and shows us that we are just one small part of a great big world. So start today. Pick up a book and read!