Photo Source: Cristina Thornburg
FishPapa and I are major bookworms. For years we lived without TV or VCR because we so much preferred reading. Our date nights were often spent browsing through Borders or talking about the books we were reading. He prefers theology and I prefer novels, so we’re good foils for one another. Recently, he read a memoir, which is close to a novel, and I’m getting ready to tackle a Bible commentary. Oh my word! We’re probably starting to look like each other, too!
Even though a television exists in our home today, we still love to read. And I’m so glad that our children do, too. So far, three boys know how to read and FishBoy5 is well on his way to learning. I am so excited! This homeschooling experiment is working! My children are literate – oh happy day!
I can’t say that we have any special tricks to having produced good readers, but I am so thankful that we have a family of bookworms.
Here are some things that I believe have helped us in this journey:
1. Read to your children early and often. My favorite pediatrician of all time, Dr. Patterson, always gave our babies board books at their six month visits. He was a firm believer in reading to children at an early age. I was always so impressed by his willingness to put his money where his mouth was. I’d heard this advice before, but I was often frustrated when my first born would tune out while I was reciting Go, Dog. Go! Eventually, I learned that “reading” to a baby is much different than reading to a toddler or to a preschooler. Sometimes, it involves just “reading” the pictures, or simply narrating what you see. Depending on the child’s personality, development, and attention span, you may find different kids wanting or needing different types of reading. FishBoy12 could listen, spellbound, to Saint George and the Dragon when he was only three. Yet, today FishBoy5 doesn’t really want to hear the story in its entirety. Be patient, try different things, and most importantly, continue to expose your kids to good books.
2. Make library day a regular event. This can be as simple as a 20 minute stop on errand day or elaborate as several hours spent browsing and reading and maybe attending a library-sponsored event, like storytime. There are some challenges to library trips, but with creative thinking, I think most parents can find a way to make it work. If it just seems impossible right now, take a breather for a few months and try again. Chances are you can request books online and then pick them up in a few days from your local branch. This should help keep a steady supply of reading material in the house.
3. Start a book collection. Whether you have a Barnes and Noble budget or simply a passion for browsing used book stores and thrift stores, establish a home library and find a tiny corner of your home where your kids can keep a few books of their own. This doesn’t need to be elaborate, but I think there is something sweet and comforting about a well-worn volume that a child can call his own. I began our book collection by ordering through Scholastic Books years ago. These are inexpensive, paperback books that are usually available in popular and classic titles. Many of the books I bought 10+ years ago are still serving us well.
4. Read books aloud as a family. This is not something that I remember from my own childhood, probably because I loved to find a quiet corner to read by myself. But, we’ve made this a family habit. Over the years, we’ve read 100s of books together as a family and kids — of all ages — enjoy this. In fact, FishPapa has been known to stop his home improvement project to listen better to my recitation of Old Yeller. If you need help in choosing good books or aren’t really sure what it means to read aloud to kids, check out The Read Aloud Handbook or Honey for a Child’s Heart.
5. Engage in book discussions and book recommendations with your kids. As your children grow older, they will want to read books on their own. We regularly have 30+ books checked out from the library. Since our oldest three children are all boys, they have similar book interests. It’s not uncommon for the same book to pass through three pairs of hands in the course of a week or two. This is the prime time for me to read the book as well. Then we can discuss it together, sharing what we liked, what we didn’t like, what we expected, what disappointed, etc. Often, the boys will give each other suggestions as to what to read next. It’s a wonderful way for us to engage in a story without being there all at the same time.
6. Make quiet reading a regular part of every day. When I taught high school we called this time during class, SSR (Silent, Sustained Reading). For some students, this was the only quiet block of time they might experience all day. Make sure this is a part of your home on a regular basis, if not everyday. In this season of our life, we often have reading time right at bedtime. FishKids need to be in bed at 8:30 but can read until 9. Find a pocket of time that works best at your house.
7. Demonstrate your love of reading to your kids. Read! Children learn what they live. If they see you value books and what you gain from reading, their interest will be piqued, and they will most likely follow suit. Make it a regular habit to have a good book going and share what you’re reading or what you hope to accomplish by reading a certain book. If you need some inspiration, join us each month as we’re booking it.
What do you do to encourage your kids to love books and reading?