Reading is such an amazing life skill. It allows you something to do just about anywhere, opens the door to learn about anything, allows you to “travel” without leaving your house and lets you disappear into an exciting story. For us parents, it allows us to spend time connecting with our kids over mutually enjoyed books. Anyone can create a culture of reading in your home. Even kids who don’t gravitate toward books can be won over! Here are a few of my tips for creating that culture of reading in your home.
Have books readily available
I’m not saying you need to go out and spend lots of money on books, your local library is a great resource as are second hand stores. If your child has so far seemed uninterested in reading, make sure you’re seeking out books that surround their interests. That may be books about hockey, skateboarding, animals, friendship, adventures, true stories, etc. You can literally find books about anything. Once you gather up the books, start strategically placing them throughout the house. I use little baskets but you can even just stack them on the floor. A few of my favourite areas to place books are: by the toilet, by the couch, on the kitchen table, in their room and in the car. Have the books positioned so the covers are noticeable and can then draw the child’s attention. Don’t make a big deal about it, just have the books out and let them be drawn in.
Make time for your kids to read
Now I am not an advocate for trying to make your home look like school, even if you’re homeschooling, but one thing I do love is the DEAR time. DEAR stands for drop everything and read. I don’t call it this at home. We just call it quiet time or reading time. We are all together all day, every day so I think it’s good for us to take some time apart after lunch. So after lunch every day, we take 30 min in our own rooms to read. The kids each have a 30 minute timer. As they get older I would love to increase this to 60 minutes. My youngest is not independently reading yet so she can listen to books that have a cd with them to read to her or she can just flip through books or play quietly in her room. But I always put books in there for her and she has a whole bin or books with CD. I also read during this time. That lets me set a good example while also giving me time to sit and recharge and read. It let’s us tackle the afternoon refreshed but also gives us all time set aside to look at books.
Read to Your Kids
Sometimes the act of reading and having to sound out and decode the words can be exhausting for kids and therefore take away from the enjoyment of the reading experience. Kids may think they don’t like books because it is too much of a struggle to both read them and understand what’s going on. Many more kids will listen, with interest, to a story being read to them. This is a great way to hook your child on books and expose them to books above their reading level, while having a shared experience over the content of the book. Be purposeful in your selection. Choose a book that will intrigue your child and draw them in to the content of the book. Experiment with different times in the day to read and see what works best. Provide opportunities for little ones to keep their hands busy while you read and consider providing a snack or cup of tea or hot cocoa to make the experience even more special. Here are a few places I like to read: at the table while they eat (hands and mouths are already busy and this helps them sit quietly to eat), when they are arguing or upset and we need to change our focus of the day, before bed, on long car rides, waiting at a doctor office for an appointment, waiting for our food in a restaurant, over afternoon tea and snacks, while they dry off and warm up on towels after swimming at a lake or our backyard pool, and sitting around a campfire. Many memories we have made reading books as a family around the campfire.
Check Your Expectations
Like all else in the journey of parenting, this takes training. Children may not automatically sit quiet to be read to. If you have been reading to your children since birth, they will likely be ready to sit and listen to one chapter of a book that grabs their interest. If you are starting reading to your kids for the first time, a couple pages may be all you get. That’s fine. Try to see each time reading aloud as an exercise in training. Another place to manage expectations is to not require children to sit still. Kids do need to learn to be quiet while we read, but quiet doesn’t necessarily equal still. Often busy hands can help kids listen to what you’re reading. Some ideas are colouring, building with blocks, playdough, kinetic sand, elastic bands on peg boards, sitting on a wobbly board, bouncing on a ball, crocheting, folding laundry, etc. As long as mouths are quiet, hands or bodies can be moving and sometimes that makes it easier to actively listen to a book.
Some Favourite Books
My number one recommendation would be to read The Read Aloud Family by Sarah MacKenzie as she writes an entire book about the benefit of reading aloud and she has recommended book lists by age in her book. She also has an instagram page with many book recommendations. I will share some of our favourites but really the biggest thing is to find a book that will draw in your child/ children.
- The Chronicles of Narnia series
- My Father’s Dragon series (recommended as a first chapter book for young children)
- The Poppy series
- The One and Only Bob
- Who Hq books (non fiction books about people in history)
- all Roald Dahl books
- The Trumpet of the Swan
- Mr. Popper’s Penguins
- Ginger Pye
- The Boxcar Children series
- The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls series
- Nim’s Island
- The Dead Sea Squirrels series
- The Great Summer Camp Catastrophe
- I Survived series
- Christian Heroes Then and Now series
And there are so many more! These are just ones that we, personally, have read so far and enjoyed. There are other series’s that my kids read on their own. For instance, Hailey loves to read the Rainbow Fairy Magic series and the Nancy Drew adn the Clue Crew series. She also loves Cul – de- Sac Kids and The Littles. Those are books my 8 year old reads independently. Sophie does not read on her own yet but her favourite books to read with us are any Nick Bland books (The Very ___ Bear) and the Otter Be series. Find what they like and get that in front of them. If that doesn’t work, try a different kind of book. Sophie, at age 4, would sit for hours flipping through a 800 page dog encyclopedia. Don’t give up! Find what draws them in and be drawn in together. It’s worth it for them intellectually and for you both relationally.