A while back, a friend gave our son a book about a certain well-known discolored breakfast. Thinking that this would be the ideal way to spend some quality time together, I hauled Junior onto my lap and opened the book. I put my finger on the first line and prepared to launch into the story.
A little voice piped up before I had a chance to read a single word.
“I … am …”
Junior read the first line to me, and the next. Then he read the next page and the one after that. Without having ever even seen the book before, Junior read the entire story to me, asking for help with maybe six words.
He had just turned two.
My knowledge of child-rearing extends to approximately the end of our driveway, which is a very short walk indeed. I’m no expert. I can’t tell you why Junior was spelling out words like elephant and xylophone before his second birthday, but I can make some pretty good guesses as to why he loves books. I’m not saying that trying the following methods will guarantee a family of voracious bookworms, but it certainly won’t hurt.
Keep books handy. We have books in every room of the house. Literally. Many of the shelves are at or below Junior’s eye level, full of colorful titles and bright covers. They serve as a constant reminder of how much reading is a part of daily life.
Make books friendly. When kids are very small, invest in lots of inexpensive magazines and board books. Little fingers will be able to get lots of practice turning pages without repeated warnings to “be careful!” Think of it this way: if you hear dire warnings every time you approach something, you’ll soon lose interest altogether.
Try the personal touch. When reading a bedtime (or any other time) story, make it all about your kiddo. Change the main character’s name, appearance, and interests to match those of your audience. And don’t forget to do the voices!
Be a good example. If you view reading as a chore, your kids probably will, too. Let them see you enjoying books on a regular basis. Instead of saying that you have to read something, put a positive spin on it. “Yay, I get to read two short stories for my creative writing class!” Spoken words are just as powerful as the written ones; use them wisely.
Praise every effort. It doesn’t matter if the littlest family member has the book upside down and is making hash of every word on the page. If she’s grinning from ear to ear because she’s “reading like Daddy,” hugs and high-fives are in order.
Make time – lots of it. Visit story circles at the library. Take books along when you’ll be waiting in lines or at the doctor’s office. Sneak in a couple of pages while waiting for the bath tub to fill. A minute spent reading is never wasted, and a minute spent reading together is twice treasured.
Those are a few of my ideas, so let’s hear yours. How did you introduce your kids to books? Share your thoughts in the comment section; we love “reading from you!”