Because I've always been a fan of books and reading, I was hopeful that my (future) children would follow in my footsteps. When the girls were babies, I anticipated the day when our "quiet" time would consist of independent reading. I imagined all of us sprawled across blankets and chairs by the ocean, warmed by the sun, with books in our hands. Or on chilly winter afternoons, wrapped in quilts, reading quietly to ourselves. The initial chaos of three little ones has faded and we have experienced some of these moments.
I don't know if you can really raise kids to be readers. Some of it has to be genetic. Everyone is different and if it is difficult for you to read, you most likely won't be interested in picking up a book. I realized early on that forcing the girls to read wasn't the way to go, so we parented in a manner by which we hoped to foster the joys of reading. In our case, it was somewhat easy in that the girls prefer reading to math. Whether they enjoyed reading or not, I also wanted to ensure that they respected the importance of reading. So when their teachers told them that they should be reading for at least xx minutes each night, I made sure that they were reading for at least xx minutes each night.
Here are some of the ways in which we have encouraged our girls to read:
- Up until they began to read on their own, we read to them every night.
- As they began to sound out words and read on their own, we would sit with them one on one each night to listen and help when needed. I am not a patient person and this phase was not an enjoyable one for me. I was excited to watch them learn to read but I had to constantly bite my tongue so as not to blurt out the words.
- Encourage reading on the weekends and during the summer months when school isn't in session.
- Ensure that they have books to read that are at the appropriate reading level. If books are too difficult, it can be discouraging and kids can become frustrated.
- Assist them in looking up words they don't know in the dictionary. We actually use my old paper dictionaries from when I was in school.
- We all have library cards and visit the library when our book supply is low. Never say no to a library visit.
- Lead by example.
Years and years ago, well before I had children, a coworker of mine told me how she read books before her son read them in order to ensure the material was appropriate or to be able to explain certain things should things need an explanation. Granted, at the time, Harry Potter was all the rage and I thought that maybe she just wanted to read Harry Potter. Now that I have kids, I can't imagine doing this. In an ideal world, maybe, but there just aren't enough hours in the day, especially with three at the same reading level. Allie is currently reading I Am Malala, the young readers edition, while I am reading the adult version. The timing of that just sort of worked out as I had mine on hold with the library. She's a little young to be reading it but it was in the Scholastic book flyer that supposedly contains age appropriate books and she was very interested in it. By reading it at the same time, I can answer questions and we've been able to discuss portions of Malala's story. Emily's in line to read it next.