I was the kindergartener who read voraciously right out of the gate.
I was the 5th grader getting plastic trophies for finishing the year’s reading program, usually several thousand words above the goal.
I was the teenager getting grounded for reading too much instead of calling a friend or going outside.
I am the mother who, once latched onto a fascinating new book, doesn't do anything else until I've finished it. Don't worry, my kids still get fed! The dishes...well, they can wait, right?
I am a bookworm. I actually come from a family of bookworms. My husband is one, too. Unfortunately, the love of reading isn't exactly genetic, so making sure our kids love reading has been a goal of mine since our oldest was in the womb.
He's six, homeschooling at a kindergarten level and reading at a second-grade level. His next oldest sibling is hot on his heels. My kids love books more than candy and toys. They spend a significant amount of time each day reading, aside from bedtime stories. A new book is irresistible to them, and it isn't long before they have it basically memorized.
I don't say this to brag about my children the way parents are inclined to do (okay, maybe a little), but rather to say that we're well on our way to breeding the next generation of book lovers in our family. I wanted to provide a brief list of things that seem to be working so far to make our children into bookworms, so that you can instill a love of reading into yours, too!
While I wasn't one of those new parents that read to my firstborn in the womb, we did start reading to him as soon as he began to sit up. We read from the same two or three books every night, delighting in his obvious thrill at our animal noises and silly sounds.
With reading a part of our first baby's nightly routine, it's been easy to create a habit that has lasted his entire life so far, and now his three sisters (and in-the-womb brother) all enjoy story time before bed. We also “leveled up” with our oldest and started reading chapter books with him after his sisters are in bed. Nothing gives me a greater thrill than sharing my most favorite childhood stories with my son, and discovering new ones together, too!
Give Unrestricted Access to Books
We keep a multitude of books on a shelf just the right size for little hands. There are many benefits to this that I believe far outweigh the cons. First, kids internalize that books are a green-light item. They're allowed to read them, look at them, even play with them. It's easier to say no to grown-up books that we want to keep nice when they have several shelves of their own books that we can redirect them to. We select quality books and keep them rotating through the shelves so they always seem fresh and new (and so mom and dad can get a break from reading that one really long or annoying one, am I right?). We've utilized generous grandparents, thrift stores, and libraries to keep our collection exciting and refreshed. (Although, I'll admit that we rarely check out library books… the potential for damage and the cost of replacement is too high in my house with four sticky, chaotic, enthusiastic readers!)
I know you're tired after chasing them all day, running errands, and keeping them alive. But when your toddler runs up with their favorite book, or your older child stops you every other sentence to ask a question or make an observation, try your best to turn down the cranky dial and make it magical for them. We're imperfect people, but we can find ways to bring joy into reading. Maybe it's an extra ridiculous voice or face, maybe we add inflection and alter our tone, maybe we introduce our children to audiobooks, movies, or musicals based on the books we read. We read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to my oldest last summer and he loved it, so when the local Jr. High announced their production of the musical, we bought tickets and made sure he got to go. My energetic six-year-old sat through the entire thing, riveted. He loved pointing out all the differences he noticed between the book and the show. I'm looking forward to sharing one of the film adaptations with him, too.
A very critical point to make here is that we never force reading on our kids. d. It's one reason we home school. A child can sometimes be forced into reading too soon because of school requirements. It’s one of the quickest ways to kill the joy of reading, making it something a child might not discover until adulthood, which is a tremendous shame. I think some of the danger is mitigated by reading in the home before school begins. Help your young reader find books about things they love to keep the spark lit, even if reading becomes hard for them. My son loves sharks and sciency things like tornadoes and weird fungus. A book like that will keep him occupied for DAYS. So does his now-tattered copy of Calvin and Hobbes comics. I try not to be too picky, as long as he's reading!
Monkey See, Monkey Do
If you don't read, why would your child? They are the world's best mimics, and if you never make time for any sort of reading beyond Facebook scrolling, I can assure you that most children won’t see that reading has any sort of value. Let them see you do it, and tell them about what you’ve read recently. In today’s age of technology you have no excuses. Audiobooks make “reading” during your commute or while doing dishes or laundry possible. Even many e-readers come with read-aloud options. Ebooks make reading on the train or in the car an option for some. Those that get carsick can slip a Kindle in our purse and read in the waiting room or in the school pickup line.
I love paperbacks and hardcovers, but let’s be real: kids trash them, they pick them up and walk off with them, they lose your spot no matter what sort of bookmark you use, and they can be plain inconvenient. My personal library is filled with my very favorite books in print format, but for reading in general I have grown to love my Kindle. Since I often read to my kids from it for home school, they know when I’m holding it that I’m reading.
If you are reading this article and you don’t love reading try reading something you’ve never tried reading before. Pick up a new genre, a new author, an audiobook, try it again. You might find something you didn’t expect to love and become a bookworm yourself.
Reading ought to be something your kid loves. I believe nothing will prepare a child more for success in the future than a deep love of reading. I look forward to seeing the light catch in my children's eyes and to help form their love of reading even more.
Are you raising bookworms? How have you taught your kids to love reading?
We're all writers, we're all moms, writing our way through the "brambles" of life and our stories.