Being a Book Lover with Miss Annie
Welcome back to Annie’s blog.
It might have been William Shakespeare who said, “Some people are born readers, some learn how to be readers, and others have reading thrust upon them.”
Well, something like that.
I was one of those born readers, which should come as no surprise. I was reading at an early age - a very early age - and SisterLibrarian was reading before she could talk. We were both early voracious readers, too. We didn’t have the benefit of Books from Birth, though we had lots of books handed down from friends and family, so between our home, school, and neighborhood libraries, we were never at a loss for reading material to whiz through.
But not everyone is born a book fiend.
Maybe it’s a struggle to get a book into your young one’s hands. Maybe Lego books are all that your child wants to read, and you’re tearing your hair out. Maybe you can’t figure out why there’s never a free moment to sit down with the family and read aloud.Wonder no further, dear reader. Here are some hints on how to get your kids to love reading:
Start early. Infants might not understand exactly what they’re seeing and hearing, so don’t start them on The Feminine Mystique quite yet. However, reading with babies is an excellent way to bond with them. Yes, yes, the importance of brain development and building language is not to be sneezed at. Just the act of reading together establishes closeness and comfort between parents and children. Babies who are used to having books around will know them as a constant in their home (remember that link to Books from Birth, above?), and will benefit them far beyond childhood.
Make reading a joy, not a punishment. At a children’s librarianship conference a few years ago, author and poet Margarita Engle made a fabulous analogy about making reading the chocolate, rather than the peas. While I can’t remember the exact quote (I was there, but tweeting too fast to catch it), the sentiment alone deserves hearty applause. Treat reading as something that your young one gets to do, not has to do. Reward your children with trips to the library or local independent bookstore, author visits and signings, and that time will be a treat, not a chore.
Set an example… It’s probably not a coincidence that SisterLibrarian and I learned - and loved - to read so early as kids because we come from a reading family. My parents were and are big readers, as were all my grandparents. Seeing my parents with books in their hands and having books strewn around my house impressed upon me that reading was as regular in my home as cooking, cleaning, playing with toys, and breathing. It’s just what we did.
... And read together. But we also did read together. Making time for bedtime stories helps establish a bedtime routine for young ones, it’s true, and the benefits extend to literary fluency and helping brains grow. Bedtime reading is the default reading together time for most families, but it's not the only opportunity for family reading! Adults can carry print books and ebooks with them and read anywhere! Turn those standstill moments of your day into opportunities for stories-- maybe in a waiting room, on the Metro, or waiting for after-school activities or pick-up.
Let them read what they like. Maybe your daughter is a huge fan of graphic novels, although you think those aren’t “real books.” (You’re wrong, by the way. Sorry.) It might be that your son can’t get enough historical fiction, but you’d rather see him have a baseball stats book in his hands, instead. Your youngest may not be ready to give up the early readers and make the jump to chapter books, even though you think they’re ready. If your kids are happy readers, let them be happy readers. Pushing books on them that they’re not ready for or don’t like may not be enough to turn them away from reading, but it will be enough to earn you a scowl. Suggest a new read that’s in their wheelhouse - perhaps leveling up if you absolutely must make the point - otherwise, let them be happy. Ask your local librarian for help finding a new favorite - we call them Readalikes - books that are similar to what you like to read!
Don’t push it. You’ve no doubt noticed that children develop at different speeds. Some walk early, talk late, get head starts, or are “late bloomers.” Much of it comes out in the wash, and it’s the same with reading. Most young ones will learn letters and phonics in schools, so they’ll be taught there. If they show resistance toward reading or learning to read, that’s okay. Keep setting an example by reading around them, make your regular visits to the library, find fantastic picture books - each DC Public Library branch has a plethora of wordless ones, where children can create their own story- and spend your quality time together.
A note here, parents: if you have true concerns about your child’s reading abilities with regards to age and/or grade level, it makes sense to chat with the appropriate teacher. If you’re worried that your child isn’t a bookworm, don’t fret. Show them that books are to be enjoyed, loved, and cherished. And chances are, your child will become a book lover.
And maybe your book lover will become a reader.
And maybe your reader will become a book fiend.
And if you’re really lucky - I mean, really lucky - your book fiend might become a librarian.
It’s been known to happen.