I’m a mom of four kids, and one of my biggest joys as a parent has been to watch my kids’ love for reading develop.
Last year, my daughter participated in our local Battle of the Books competition and her team won first place in the fourth grade across several elementary schools. It was a moment that beamed with parental pride–not the bragging, annoying kind, but rather the quiet joy of accomplishment.
Now, as I watch my 2-year-old scurry over to my lap with board books in hand, I wonder where the path of reading will take him….
I realize there is a nature v. nurture element to reading. Deep in the recesses of our DNA, some of us might not be born-readers. I certainly wasn’t as a child. But, there are things I can do now for my children to nurture their love for reading, even if it’s not part of their nature, inherently.
1. Read to them early. I mean, really early. I think I started reading to my kids as soon as it held their attention, probably around 3 months. Board books with bright colors and short sentences are perfect for the infant and toddler stages.
2. RhymeTime. Even as an adult, I still love poems and stories that rhyme. When my kids were young, Dr. Suess was a welcome guest every night before they went to bed. (I think I have Green Eggs and Ham memorized.)
Not only are rhymes fun to hear and speak, but research suggests that rhyming jumpstarts a child’s reading career:
“Because rhyming words – words that have sounds in common – often share spelling sequences in their written form, children sensitive to rhymes are well equipped to develop their reading.” Bookstart.org.uk
3. Storytime. Your local library is a treasure trove of resources for children, even at a very young age. Most libraries have story times for babies and young children that incorporate music, story telling, and rhymes. My kids L O V E D story time at the library. I’m thankful that such a fun (and free) activity developed their love for reading at such an early age.
4. Books as Toys. Leave a basket of board books wherever you keep your children’s toys. That way, the books will catch their eye as much as the shiny, red fire trucks.
5. Develop a nighttime ritual. Read to your kids every night before they go to bed. It doesn’t have to be anything super long. Reading is a calming activity for children and the sound of your voice will soothe them right before they go to sleep.
6. Books on CD. Once my kids dropped their afternoon nap (the horror!), they still had an hour long quiet time in their rooms after lunch. When they were old enough to follow along (around age 3), I left books on CD in their rooms. They loved listening for the sound of the beep to turn the page, and I truly think following along in the book before they could read, helped them recognize words later on.
7. Teach your child to read in 100 Easy Lessons.
When you think you’re kids are ready, and only if you want to, you can teach your kids to read on their own with this book. I taught my oldest to read before he started kindergarten, and I swear my daughter learned just by listening along. The lessons are hands-on and only 20 minutes per day. My kids never seemed overwhelmed; in fact, they were eager to do the next day’s lesson.