As a teacher and a mom I worry about my kids getting the best possible start to life. That common worry started early. As soon as I found out I was pregnant with my oldest son, I worried about the foods I was consuming, was I exercising enough, did I choose the best prenatal vitamins, and we even began reading to him in hopes to expose him to language. He wasn’t even here yet and I had filled my head with worry. Once he actually left the womb, forget about it! I was, and sometimes still am, a wreck. I worry about a number of things now that I have four tiny humans I am responsible for. I work every day to provide them with everything they need, but one of the biggest gifts I have given them during these early years is that of literature. Whether it’s a simple ABC picture book or the detailed beautiful stories of Patricia Polacco, we dive into story after story from the minute they wake up until they lay their heads back down. We have created a culture of reading in our house and it’s so amazing to watch grow.
Obviously we do a lot of read alouds when our kids are young. I call my kids readers because they love thumbing through the pages of a book, but they are all under 4, so they aren’t actually reading. They are however, listening to me read… a lot!! But what happens when our children start to become independent readers? Well, most families slowly stop reading aloud to these children because “they know how to read.” But let’s think about this for a minute… If you have an 8 year old who is reading chapter books and enjoying them at a fourth grade level, we think “Yay, they are reading and doing so above grade level.” But are they really getting everything they can out of these books? Does an 8 year old make mistakes when they read? Yes! Do they skip words or even sentences? Yes! Do they know the meaning of every word they have read? No! If a child is reading independently, wonderful, but do we stop reading aloud to them… absolutely not!!
When we read aloud to children (no matter what the age), we are modeling good voice, exposing them to proper syntax, providing them with new vocabulary, and possibly most important, we are creating a culture of reading.
Some of you may be thinking, this sounds great, but who has the time? You do, trust me, you just have to make the time. We make the time for soccer practice, and baseball tryouts, swim lessons, etc… reading with your kids is worth making the time for! And they will thank you!
How do you get started creating this reading culture in your home?
- Read Every Day- Some days we have the luxury of reading 20 books and some days we are lucky to read 3. Do what works for your family. I’m lucky enough to be on summer vacation, so I am spending all day with my kiddos. On those scorching hot days when we don’t want to leave the cozy air conditioned house, we read a lot! But on those busy days when we are out spending time grocery shopping or at play dates we may only have time for our bed time stories. But no matter what, we read every day.
- Have Books Accessible- Books fill our house and all of my kiddos know where they can find them. We have a book basket in their playroom, bookshelves in each of their rooms, a book basket in the car, and a small reading corner with books I change out ever few days. The reading corner is great because they have their own special place they can sneak away and read. It is simple cozy rug, a couple pillows, a basket of blankets, bucket of books, and a few stuffed animals to read to. Sometimes I will tell them that is time to visit the reading corner and have everyone go there to read or listen to a story, but most of the time they will visit this special spot independently throughout the day.
- Visit the Library- This is a great way to borrow books for free! In addition to free books, most libraries have fun ways to get kids involved in reading. Our local library has story time for babies, toddlers, and preschool aged kids and a summer reading program for kids of all ages to participate in.
- Get Everyone Involved- In order to create this reading culture, it’s important that everyone in the home is on the same page. My hubby works a lot, but he always does bedtime stories with the kids. He will read story after story even when he is exhausted because my 3 year old will keep asking for more (he wants more stories because he loves listening to dad read and he’s trying to prolong bedtime). Sometimes I will be so excited to share a new book with the kids, but our oldest will tell me he wants Daddy to read it. Although it sometimes hurts my feelings, I love that my hubby spends this time with them.
- Fit Their Interest- I’m lucky that my kiddos are little because they will sit and listen to just about anything. But finding books that peek your kid’s interest is a great way to get them excited about reading. Once they have latched on to that excitement then start mixing it up. Fiction is great, but that seems to be so many parents go to. Be sure to include non fiction text and historical fiction so they are constantly learning.
- Be strategic– Kids who are not voracious readers may not want you shoving books at them. This won’t get them excited. Children like to discovery things on their own and often get more excited when doing so. A fun strategy I use with many things, not just reading, is strewing. Strewing is simply placing things out for them to discover without your influence. For example, when my kids are napping I will place a new book in the reading corner or on the table (Amazon Prime is frequent visitor to our home, so I like to check the mail when they are sleeping to see if anything new has come). When they discover this new book they often get so excited and will start “reading” right away. This works great with older kids and a fun strategy I use in my classroom as well. It sparks great conversations and comparisons amongst books that we may not have been able to get to if I pushed it on them.
Reading is a great way to create family togetherness. Reading with kids of all ages is so beneficial for both child and parent. Before we know it, they will be grown and out of the house, reading is one way to soak up that time together. Happy Reading!