Reading. It’s one of those things you know you need to do with your kids, yet with the busyness of life, can easily fall off the wayside. Not to mention all the other things that compete for your children’s limited attention span on a daily basis – TV, toys, computer, homework, sports, video games. Did I mention TV?
Well, it’s a new year and I hope you’re encouraged by this post to make 2016 a “Year of Reading” in your home, and use these tips to get you and your kids on the reading bandwagon.
Get excited about reading. If it’s a chore for you to get your kids to read, then it’s going to be a chore for them to do it. Although I was a reader growing up, once I had kids, I knew reading was important but didn’t know why until a couple of years ago when I read The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease. I learned about the 32-million word gap, and about the numerous studies that show how reading, and in particular reading out loud to your children (even teenagers!), is the single most effective thing you can do for their education. And, it’s free! For some additional inspiration, check out my favorite podcast at the Read Aloud Revival with Sarah Mackenzie. Every time I listen to it I feel motivated to take over the world, one book at a time.
Make a weekly trip to the library. The library can be intimidating at first, and it will be difficult for your kids to feel “at home” and peruse the thousands of books if it’s not a regular part of their schedule. Get them their own library cards, introduce them to the children’s librarians and get to know the layout of the books. It used to bug me when my boys would make a beeline straight for the super hero comic book section until I realized that it was the only section of the library they felt comfortable with. I then made sure to show them different sections where they could find books about animals and science (some of their favorite topics right now) and their favorite author, Mo Willems. Their library selection has changed dramatically since then.
Have books in every room of the house and within reach. Okay, you may think this is a bit extreme but hear me out. You want your kids to get used to books as a form of entertainment and learning, and it’s hard for that to happen if you keep all your books restricted to one obscure corner of the house, on a high shelf.
In every room? Yes! Your house doesn’t have to look like a library; a few simple “book baskets” next to the couch, the TV and yes, maybe even the bathroom, will make books readily available for your kids. And while you’re at it, throw a few in the car. You will be surprised how this small simple change will get your kids picking up a book or two when they would otherwise have been reaching for a video game.
Within reach? If you have little ones and you’re afraid they will tear up pages, remember the goal is not to have pretty books on a shelf, it is to get them to love books. Buy some of your children’s favorites in board book format for the little ones and NEVER pay full price. Many libraries have “Friends of the Library” bookshops where you can buy books for as low as $0.50 or $1. Also, check out local thrift stores and used book stores. It doesn’t hurt as much when your kiddo breaks apart a book that cost you $1 rather than $18.
Get Audio Books. What if I told you there’s a way to keep your kids in blissful silence while you’re driving that is legal and does not involve electronic devices or the threatening of their lives? It is possible! We first delved into the world of audio books with the audio drama Under Drake’s Flag. My boys loved it, and honestly, my husband and I were hooked on the story as well. The last two big hits we had were Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of Peter Rabbit and Other Stories narrated by Jim Weiss, and The Tales of My Father’s Dragon. You can easily get audio books from the library, as well on your phone on Hoopla (I love Hoopla!) and Audible. One tip about audio books: not all narrators are created equal. You may pick up an audio book that ends up being a flop because you may find the narrator’s voice or reading style annoying or hard to understand. Don’t give up on a book just because you didn’t like the narrator.
Know How to Find Good Books. If you think of books as food for your child’s mind, then you want to make sure that he or she is getting a healthy serving of nutritious meals. Think of funny, silly books as literary junk food, or “twaddle” as some call it, and books that explore powerful ideas, instill character and morals, teach historical accounts and deal with tough issues they may one day face as the literary equivalent of organic, GMO-free, farm-fresh gourmet food! However, it’s impossible to pre-read every single book your kids like in order to make sure it’s up to par, especially when you have a lot of them – kids that is. This is when you rely on handy “book lists.” There are many lists online you can find on Pinterest, but you can also check out book reviews from GoodReads.com and CommonSenseMedia.org. Also, check out these homeschool favorites to create your own lists:
- Honey for a Child’s Heart by Gladys Hunt.
- The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease.
- All Through the Ages by Christine Miller and the ‘CM Book Finder‘ tool from SimplyCharlotteMason.com are great resources to find books based on a specific historical setting, geographic location or time period.
Make Reading a Fun Part of Your Family Traditions. If reading together is not part of your family culture, it’s never too early nor too late to start. When I first started doing read-alouds with my boys, I wasn’t sure how they’d respond, so I made it an extra special time by making hot chocolate with marshmallows and giving them a few cookies. You can also give them a few incentives like we’re doing now with the Read-Aloud Revival’s 31 Day Winter Read-Aloud Challenge. Or you can join the Family Dinner Book Club over at Growing Book by Book, where each month you read the chosen book with your family, and participate in the suggested activities related to the book. Whatever you do, just make sure to make it fun and meaningful for your crew.
I’m really looking forward to building great memories through our reading this year, and I hope you are too. But tell me, what are some of the challenges you face and tips to get your kids reading? Please let me know by leaving a comment below.
Here’s to a 2016 full of reading fun!