“To love reading is to be a lover of words.” –Karen Andreola
I absolutely love to read. Love, Love, Love to read. Those who know me, know that I have about 4-5 books going at the same time. My favorite books are Christian books about life, inspiration, encouragement, truth and God himself, fiction books about the Amish, biographies and classics. These are a few of the books I am reading currently: Experiencing God by Richard and Henry Blackaby, A Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan, What’s it like to be Married to Me? by Linda Dillow, and A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. I am forever seeking knowledge and love to learn. Sitting in a comfortable chair or my bed, listening to classical or jazz music, sipping tea and reading a book brings joy and peace to my soul. Ahhh….
Although, I do have a few ibooks, I prefer the old fashioned feel of a real, honest to goodness book in my hands. I love to flip the pages. Highlighting, underlining and writing in my books is meaningful to me. I think it helps me to interpret and really comprehend what I’m reading.
Of course, before I had children, I found much more time to enjoy the comforts of a book. The last 2 1/2 years of raising children has changed the quantity of my reading. At first, I was a little embittered because “I didn’t have time to read anymore”. I love having children dearly and feel that being a mama is one of best things God has given me. But if I’m completely honest, there have been times when my perception was that they were preventing me from enjoying and pursuing past passions. And that, for a time, I would have to lay my desires aside and pursue their best interests and needs. Which, to some degree, is a reality.
But, as I’m growing, learning and finding myself again-in the midst of mothering-I’m realizing that my passion for reading is important. In this culture of “stuff” and “more”, I found myself on the treadmill of buying and acquiring for my children “more and more” toys and things. I was so focused on making sure they were attended to and happy and had different toys to stimulate them, that I forgot how important a love a reading really is. Don’t get me wrong. I have ALWAYS read to my kids. But I was missing the vital part of instilling a love of reading into my children.
So, I’m refocusing on what is necessary. Nurturing and growing a passionate love of reading is one of the most important goals I have for my children. I want them to be enthusiastic, life-long learners. How do I help them develop a love of reading today so that they will remain passionate about reading for their future?
Here are 10 important ways to instill a love of reading in YOUR children.
1. Read to them. This is obvious. If you want your children to love to read, they must be read to at a young age. Reading aloud to them accustoms them to words. As a mother of young children, I’m constantly busy doing many things. This is where intentionality is crucial. Make reading to your little ones a priority. We have made it a habit to read first thing in the morning, snuggled up on the couch with their milk and blankets, before ANYTHING else. They look forward to this every day, even Cruz has started asking for a book after he wakes up. We also read every night before bed and at least 1-2 other times during the day. I bought the Before Five In a Row reading companion for preschoolers which helps give some extra thought and ideas to the traditional books it recommends. I love this reading companion and highly recommend it. There is a Five in a Row reading companion for kindergarten age children as well. In addition to our scheduled reading times, we try to read a bible story every morning as well. As beautiful as this all sounds, know that we are flexible! The morning and evening reading times are set, but reading times during the day can vary. This isn’t pass or fail. Just read to them, as much as possible!
2. Have books readily available to them. If you want them to love to read, let them have access to books! Place them within their reach and in their play area. They can’t learn what they don’t know. We have 2 baskets of books in the living room for them to rummage through as well as a large basket of books in each of their rooms. Do not worry about making them all neat and tidy and stacked alphabetically. For toddlers and preschoolers, I’ve found baskets much more user friendly to a young one’s curiosity.
3. Make reading a priority to your kids. Children learn what is important in life from us. I decided that when my children come to me and ask me to read a book or want me to see something in a book they are looking at, I will stop what I’m doing (as much as possible) and pay attention. If I have time, I will sit right there on the floor and read the book to them. But if I’m in the middle of cooking dinner, for example, I will at least smile, look them in the eye and affirm the interest they have or make a positive comment about something in the book. They learn “Hey, I get mom’s attention when I bring her books. Books must be important.”
4. Let your children see you reading. Much of character and knowledge is caught rather than taught. Let them “catch” you reading. Children will imitate you and your behavior. If we want our children to use good manners, we must use good manners. If we want our children to speak respectfully to adults, make sure you are speaking respectfully to your husband and family and friends. If you want to instill a love of reading in your children, let them see YOU reading. I find that when I pause to read a book I enjoy, it also helps me to stop, be still and rest as well, which makes for a much happier, calmer mama in the end. A great time for me to read in front of my children is in the afternoon while they are playing either outside or in the living room.
5. Establish times of quiet reading for them. When they are preschoolers and toddlers, it is necessary that we read to them. However, even at a young age they can begin to “read” to themselves. For my two and three year olds, instead of “nap time” we have “rest time”, which means they have to stay on their beds and well, rest. They are allowed to bring books into their bed to “read”. This isn’t play time, and although my 2 year old still likes to challenge this a bit, my 3 year old loves reading and listening to music for his rest time. And when they take a nap, its a bonus! As an extra dose of culture, I will occasionally play classical music for them in their rooms.
6. Get excited about books and reading. Make reading books an adventure for your little one! They will feed off of your emotions. When we are sad, they feel it. When we are happy, they are happy too. When we get excited, they sense our excitement! Get the picture? I don’t make them read. Instead I ask, “Who wants to read? Who wants to go on an adventure?” Of course they jump up and down and say “me!” Sometimes we’ll read in different rooms to change it up a bit. I always make it a BIG deal when we get a new book. Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library program is an awesome way to build up your own library. They get one new book each month until they turn five! We have 4 1/2 more years left….that is A LOT of books! And in my opinion, they are high quality books. Another way to get kids excited is to let them pick out the books they want to read. Remember also, it’s not necessarily about reading every book word for word. Vary your time with books by just looking at the pictures, and if the kids want to just flip the pages and jump around, let them!! Exploring a book is great for their curiosity! So, make books a big deal!
7. Teach them to respect books. I have emphasized from early on that we take very special care of our books. Ripping pages out of, writing on, stepping on, or throwing books are not acceptable behaviors. They are learning that books are important. Children will values what they learn is important and worthy of respect.
8. Read different types of books. As my children are getting into the preschool years I have begun to add poems, nursery rhymes, fables, and longer stories such as Beatrix Potter’s Complete Tales. Picture books are still our primary reading choice for my one year old, but he’s learning to sit as I read longer books to the other ones. Remember to get some new books once in awhile to keep their interest and curiosity. Libraries will have sales often, and I just purchased 45 children’s book at our Friends of the Library Sale for $12. Now you can’t beat those prices! Instead of toys for holidays and birthdays, ask for books. SimplyCharlotteMason.com has a super list of highly recommended books for all your children’s ages.
9. Act out the stories in the books. I think this is super fun! A fabulous way to help them build their imaginations! Currently, one of our favorites is We’re Going On A Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen (One of the books in Before Five In A Row by Jane Claire Lambert). This is also just a way to have FUN with your children and laugh and smile, which will absolutely benefit everyone!
10. Engage them in a conversation about their books. Ask them questions about the scenes, the characters, the story. What are the characters feeling? What are they doing? Ask them about the pictures, the colors, the animals. Recall their memory to a book at a different time when you aren’t reading together. You will be amazed at how quickly they can recall a story from a book. Certainly, at a young age, they will not be able to tell you the entire story, but I am impressed how even Gavin at age 3 remembers different characters and how they were feeling. In her book Charlotte Mason Companion: Personal Reflections on The Gentle Art of Learning, Karen Andreola shares what she has learned about Charlotte’s philosophy of education. Charlotte Mason founded her “House of Education” in England in 1892. She had a heart for learning, particularly in home education. But whether or not you are formerly homeschooling your children, I firmly believe the home is the primary place for learning, especially for young children. And I absolutely love her theory on narration. “She believes in the “art of telling” and that narration (retelling what has just been read) is the best and most natural way for a young child to organize and demonstrate the knowledge he gains from books. She observed that what the child digs for himself becomes his own possession. Narration develops the power of self expression and forces the child to use his own mind and form his own judgment.”
You may ask, “Aren’t your children only 1, 2, &3?” Why, yes they are. However, NOW is the time to get them acquainted with books and with reading so that as they mature to grade school level, their love of reading will have been planted, nurtured and thriving.
Reading is important. Are you making this a priority? Share how you are instilling a love of reading in your children.