I've been asked a few times lately how I encourage my children to love books and reading. I brainstormed some ideas, and thought I'd share them here if anyone else is interested.
I'd love for you to comment and share your ideas, too! What are the things you do to cultivate a love for reading and books in your children?
I read to my kids...alot.
I've read to Lana since she was born, and she would sit and let me read to her all day if I could. We've worked our way up to chapter books - she & I just started the Magic Treehouse Series this weekend, and she can't get enough! She begs for "just one more chapter," no matter how many we've already read!
Tucker's attention span isn't very long at all, so I make his read-a-louds shorter and more frequent. I try to get him to sit in my lap with a book at least 5 or 6 times a day. Just one short board book at a time. If he protests, I don't fight it to make him sit. I just keep reading aloud so he's at least hearing it and seeing that it's important. Sometimes I'll put him in his highchair with plain paper and crayons and read aloud to him while he colors. It helps if his hands are busy. I can't help but think it's this way because I didn't have as much time to read to his as an infant, but it could just be his personality.
I make it seem like a treat.
"Lana, it's so late but do you want to stay up and sneak in one more book?" Or if Dan's not home and I'm feeding them lunch or dinner, I'll ask them if they'd like me to read to them while they eat. They're a captive audience! During the winter, I like to put them in a warm bath and read aloud while they play. Anything that makes books seem special and fun.
We go to the library weekly and I make it a really fun, exciting thing.
In general, I try to avoid rushing in and out. I make sure we have an hour at least. I take Tucker out of the stroller and let him play around because I want him to look forward to it. I also make a point to play outside at the playground BEFORE we go in, so he's not totally wild. My goal is to wear them out, then give then a snack and drink, and then go into the library. They're ready for the AC and a rest at that point. I choose most of the books that we're going to check out for them to make sure we end up with quality literature, but I do let them choose 3 books themselves, and I try not to cringe when they're Blues Clues or Tinkerbell or something equally ridiculous.
We listen to books on tape in the car. Most libraries have them available for check-out. You can also buy them on amazon.com, or check at yard sales. I have a collection from when I was a teacher. I've also put on a book on tape while they are having morning snack. This is especially helpful if I need to unload the dishwasher, start dinner, etc. We just all listen together!
We have lots and lots of books available all the time. Far more books than even toys. I put them all over....in their rooms, in the bathroom, in the living room, in the kitchen, the car, the stroller. I want them to see them all the time, to know that they're important. We have a wide variety of books so that there is always a choice. In our new house, we have a room where the books are stored, but I'm working right now on getting baskets of them spread out throughout the house. They will only pick them up if they can see them!
I'm strategic about when I offer them books.
I make sure we've done something very active and run off lots of energy, and then I just toss a basket or pile of books in front of them when they're ready for a quiet activity.
Offer a variety of reading materials.
Magazines in the mail are a great way to motivate a pre-reader or an early reader! Everyone loves to get mail, right? When Lana gets a new issue of a magazine in the mailbox, it's so exciting for her - and then we head straight to one of our cozy reading spots and curl up together. No matter what else "needs" to be done - it all comes to a halt when that magazine shows up! I've been late to appointments because of it. :)
Let them see you reading.
This one always kind of makes me giggle to think about, because what mom of young children can realistically sit down and read a book right in the middle of the day? Please. If they're awake, we're busy. This is the one I've had to be really intentional about. If they are playing happily, my first inclination is to throw a load of laundry in the washer or tackle that stack of dirty pots and pans in the sink or make a quick phone call or try to get something marked off my to-do list. I have to make myself choose to pick up a book instead. I'll sit near them, in the same room, and even though my mind is racing with the things that need doing, I know it's valuable for me to see them holding the book, turning the pages. As an addendum to that, I'd encourage you to save your Nook or other e-reader for times when your kids aren't watching. There is just something valuable about them seeing a real live book in your hands, as opposed to another piece of electronics.
Lana was such a book-lover that I was concerned Tucker might not be the same way (because he's a boy, I didn't read to him as much as an infant, etc.) and while I would say he definitely doesn't have the attention span that she does for looking at books, he does love them. Even during the times he acts uninterested, I keep reading, and his love for books is growing! Just last night he was crying in his crib before he fell asleep, and when I went to check on him, he said "Book, please!"