Tiny Salutations

Tiny Salutations


Sunday, November 29, 2015

14 Ways to Raise a Reader

** Unfortunately I wrote this blog once already and it apparently deleted itself, of which I discovered later, leaving an unhappy length between posts * 

As a parent you often wonder if you are doing it right, making the right decisions.  Parenting is just difficult.  There is one thing though that I'm pretty confident we have done right in our house- reading.  Reading has always been a priority in our house, and our son has grown tremendously from it.  He was late to talk and I attribute his learning to talk to homemade books.  Now at three and a half years old, despite other developmental delays, he is learning to read and write a little on his own.  So here are 14 tips on how you might raise a reader in your own home.

Reading in the NICU, which I did everyday (this is just after his birth)
1. Start early- I began reading to our son in my belly. Once he was born, I read to him everyday in the NICU and have read to him everyday since.

Reading at bedtime
2. Make reading a routine- If you incorporate reading into a routine, it becomes part of everyday. If it is a part of a daily routine, you will likely encounter less complaining and more excitement.  I suggest using their bedtime routine, but around meals or upon waking are good ones too.

3. Be persistent- During certain stages in development, or if starting out reading later in life, children may be a little resistant to reading. Before my son could move, he had to sit to read, but when he began to move independently, I could not get him to sit for even a simple board book. He simply couldn't stay still that long. I was frustrated, but I continued to read to him every day. First, he could only sit for one sentence, then one page, then one book, until now he regularly sits for five or six books.
We were in the bookstore (it may have been my birthday) and Layne went around picking up books, leafing through them, and saying "Hmm, that looks like a good one!". It had me giggling, but it's a good example of how children will follow your example. If you are interested in books, they will pick that up and likely follow.
4. Set an example- Children tend to follow what the people around them- particularly their parents- do. If you don't read for fun, they aren't likely to do so either.

5. Read aloud to the family- I have always read aloud. I have read aloud to my brother as a child, then my husband, then my son. It keeps the whole family occupied together with something other than TV. My favorite is that you all experience the story together. How often have you read a really good book, but have no one to talk to about it, since no one else is reading it?

Reading with sick snuggles
6. Read every time your child brings you a book- Every parent knows the exasperation of the twentieth time your child brings that book, the one you've read a million times. I think it is important to read at each request, so that they always feel encouraged about reading. So to keep you both encouraged, I have a few tips.... donate the books you can't stand reading at all and rotate books that you end up reading too often or suggest another. However, repetition is an important part of development in little children, so you will likely have to deal with it during that stage.

Laughing at the funny voices I'm using for the characters in this book
7. Use funny voices- When reading aloud to the family or children, use funny voices. This keeps children interested. Even better, it differentiates the characters' dialogue, so your audience won't be confused.
Layne's bookshelf  and reading a book on his birthday

8. Fill their bookshelf- If you don't have books around, they can't be read. I think it is a necessary investment in having children to make them their own collection of books. If you're tight on money, free books can be easily found (try the library, friends with children, community garage sales and free piles).
Reading with Pappy and reading in the car (Erin, if you're reading, you gave him both of these, and they are both among his absolute favorites! Good choices!)

9. Bring books everywhere- Books are a great way to pass the time and quietly entertain children when out of the house. Stash some in the car and bring them when going to a relative's house, doctor's appointments, and vacations. At Pappy' house, books are a lifesaver to calm our son down and have some special time between family. They are also a lifesaver during the long waits in between appointments at Children's Hospital.
Looking at my first homemade book with all of his first words
10. Make homemade books- My son was a late talker, and I worked very hard to encourage him to speak. One day, I decided, given his clear interest in books, to make him a book (using a clear binder and sheet protectors) full of his family and things I wanted him to learn to say (drink, book, dog, etc.). It worked- he spoke! I think making your own books can be helpful when your child is beginning to talk, beginning to read, or just needs a push to get interested in reading.

11. Use books to make connections- Books are the main tool in our house for teaching. Stories tend to explain abstract concepts (like honesty, loyalty, empathy, etc.) in a way that is much more accessible to children. Our son really loves making connections between what he reads in books to the real world- this was the next step (after homemade books) to teaching him to talk. When they make connections, not only does it help to solidify that idea, but it also encourages them to read more. It also teaches them that books are a wonderful place to go to learn about the world.

12. Avoid overly simple or baby talk- People often use these books for small children. I despise these books. Books are a tool for teaching, among other things, how to talk. If I do not want my child to talk in overly simple baby talk, I shouldn't be reading it to him. Besides, these are usually the ones that will drive you mad, and there are so many wonderful children's books without such language that these are not necessary.
Opening book about Planes, a gift on Christmas
Excitedly opening a few Dr. Seuss books at his 3rd birthday party 
13. Books make wonderful gifts!- Giving books as gifts places importance on them and sets the tone that they are for fun. Besides, when was the last time you walked about your house and thought "Gee, I really think my children need more toys that can be strewn across the house and  injure me in the night when I get up for a glass of water!" Children could really often use another book. Books are more likely to be kept longer too. In fact, my husband and I had several of our childhood books- even some favorites from being babies- that we still had when our son was born that we could pass down.

Reading Happy Birthday To You after his birth (and a little recovery time), which we now do every year
14. Incorporate books into traditions- I love traditions, and books are often a part of them. People often incorporate books into Christmas (The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, A Christmas Carol, Polar Express, The Night Before Christmas, The Bible). We incorporate books into most holidays. My favorite tradition is that on birthdays we read Happy Birthday To You! by Dr. Seuss, and the recipient gets to pick any book for the bookstore. There are lots of good books with which to create traditions and family memories.

Layne and I reading together, and Layne reading by himself.

I hope this has given you ideas to get your children reading! You have only one life, but through literature, you can experience the lives of many.