Being a teen mom, I wanted to do everything correctly from pregnancy on. Oh, how those plans for perfection fell short a dozen times over. My first born might have been the subject of many a “figuring out” with parenting, but one thing I got right was fostering a love for reading.
I hope you don’t mind a humble brag in this area, but I want to encourage you to think of just one good thing you have inspired or taught your kids to do — the one thing that when they’re doing it, you can’t help but be proud!
When my baby was in my belly, a wise woman told me that my son could hear my voice. I wanted so badly to feel joy in this unexpected season of life and I had a vision of reading out loud while in bed resting at night and him learning my voice. Joy came in those quiet moments in the bedroom of the house I grew up in, reading out loud (quietly, because it was a little weird). Harry Potter was a series that was popular years prior, and I decided that would be a great start.
Fast-forward eight years after his birth and guess what series he started to love? Harry Potter! Below are some things I did to foster a love of reading in my son:
- Quiet time: Whether your kid naps or not, pick an hour during the day to have quiet time. This is where they are alone or close to you — whichever works for you and them. I started with each kiddo sitting on their bed with a few books of choice to look at. The hour-long quiet times started when naps stopped. For my son, that was age three or four. For my girls, they napped until kindergarten. (I have three who are currently 11, six and five).
- Let them choose: I have bought so many kids’ books that have sparked zero interest. In this space, I won’t offer specific series suggestions, but do pay attention to what your kids are asking questions about as toddlers. My son was a Mr. Fix It, always looking at how door knobs turned and clicked, so he loved picture books from Usborne. Animals and nature books are what most interest my middle girl. The youngest can spell “cat, mom, and love,” so reading isn’t her thing yet. Instead she sits with picture books that we have read together and she has memorized.
- Borrow or buy used: Books are on constant rotation in my home. Very rarely do I buy brand new books unless they are on clearance and are books that will be passed down. For reasons of space and organization, we don’t keep a ton of books around. The library is free, so use it! It’s going to take several visits for kiddos to get used to a new, quiet, exploratory environment. Take the time to spend maybe 20 minutes a week at the library until you feel comfortable staying longer.
- Rewards: I don’t reward my kids for reading. (We actually don’t do “rewards” for much, but that’s a different post for a different day.) It’s exciting and not a chore. If it seems like a chore, change things up! Have them make a fort in which to read, have a favorite cool spot outside, or play music without words while reading.
- Read together: There have been a few books that while we were homeschooling my son did not want to read. The Little House series is the most memorable one we read together. While homeschooling, reading was something we could all do together during the day. Turn your phone on silent and set it in another room.
- Let them see you read: Our kids see us on our phones, using our hands to do chores, and other laborious jobs. Let them see us read too. Leave the bedroom door open and read instead of scrolling your phone while they play close by, and don’t shoo them away.
Why should you and your kids read?
Reading expands your kids’ connection of self to world. It expands their vocabulary and conversation skills. Right now, they hear from their friends at school and family at home. What if you could expand that conversation without paying for a plane ticket to another culture?
Reading teaches you to focus. You can’t multitask and read; a pause has to be taken. Also, you are challenged! I’m currently reading Mary Poppins, She Wrote: The Life of P. L. Travers and am so inspired by it! Need help in choosing a book? Melissa has a reading list just for you!