Monday, January 11, 2010

Raising a Reader

I have never met a little person who doesn't like books. Even if they can't sit still for War and Peace, they will gladly look at the pictures in a baby animals book, or say the words along with you to Good Night Moon.

It's not getting them to love books that is the challenge, it's keeping them loving books. For 4 years, I taught struggling readers. these were 9th graders whose favorite book was still The Cat in the Hat because they hadn't read a book since kindergarten or 1st grade. The majority of them didn't have learning disabilities or other cognitive reasons why they struggled with reading. They simply didn't like it.

You see, parents often make the mistake of reading to their kids when they are small, but as the child grows, the reading aloud tapers off. Until one day, the child is watching TV every afternoon and evening, playing video games or what have you and hasn't picked up a book in years.
I consider it a tragedy.

Perhaps the problem is also that a lot of adults don't read. A child who doesn't see his parents reading doesn't have any models. I hate to bad mouth TV again, (although it is so easy for me to do!) but do we sit down with our kids and read as often as we sit down and watch TV? Probably not.

I think one of the greatest gifts my mom passed on to all 4 of her kids is her love of reading. We all love to read and I am certain that is because she made it such a big part of our lives. She read aloud to us, took us to the library and was always reading herself. She passed on that heritage. I am trying to pass it on to my kids as well.

One of the things we do in our house to promote the joys of reading is to provide easy access to lots and lots of different kinds of books. And yes, it drives this clutter phobic, mess hating Mommy crazy when Lilly scatters books all over the floor, but I let her because this is how she enjoys them right now. She really will sit in front of those bookshelves and read to herself for a half hour or more. That's pretty good for a 1 and a half year old who is climbing the walls the rest of the time.

We have books other places too. On the coffee table, in their room, at the dining room table and in the car. We never go anywhere without a few books. The kids see me reading constantly. Aaron and I read to them every day. They read to themselves. We live and breath books.
We display them around the house. We admire them for their art. We have a constantly revolving collection of new favorites we pick up at used book sales.

Yes, those used books sales. At first I thought, "I can never take 3 little kids to a used book sale and actually look at any books myself." But I did it. It was either that or don't go. And, baby, did I ever want to go. So I did and now, quite a few sales later, the kids like them as much as I do. They see me get all excited when I find one that's been on the list.
"Look guys, The Little House!"
And they show me their finds.
"Mommy, here's one about submarines!"
It is actually turning into a great pastime for the 4 of us to share.

I can't guarantee that my little ones will grow into big ones who still love to read. But I am doing all I can to help them get there. I even bought Lilly this little rocking chair at a garage sale and set it up for her next to the bookshelves and her own basket of books.
She uses it sometimes.
But mostly, she still prefers to sprawl.
Whatever works.

*For a great children's book recommendation, head over to Picnics in the Park.

1 comment:

Lillian said...

I love that I love to read and that I know that my children and grandchildren do as well. What do ya know.....a legacy!