One of the questions I get a lot from other parents is how do I raise a little reader when they are just not interested in books? I can also relate to this question, as my two boys have very different personalities, interests, and learning styles. The trick is to engage your kids on their level.
Here are some practical ways to help encourage reading in your family:
Start young. We often hear about parents singing lullabies to their babies when they are still in the womb. Lullabies are another form of storytelling and exposing language to your child. Sing, read aloud, create your own story...it's all part of bonding and building language associations with your baby from early on.
Create a reading environment at home. This can be as simple as having book shelves within your home that foster the love of books, or can be as interactive as creating a kid-approved reading nook with your child. You never know how a child can turn their favourite spot into a reading corner, whether it's cozy pillows in their room, pile of books in a play tent, or backyard set-up with lawn chairs. Imagination is key!
Make story-time part of your daily routine. In our family, we always read bedtime stories every night. Some nights we only get through a few pages, and other nights it drags on for "just one more book, mommy". The idea is to make it part of your ritual so that it's naturally woven into your family's routine.
Encourage pretend reading. For little ones, their imaginations are always running wild, and they want to feel part of the book experience. Why not have them pretend to read a book to their stuffed animals, or come up with their own ending to the story? Some picture books are wordless which encourages imaginative thinking and problem-solving. By encouraging verbal word, you are still exposing them to language skills and the love of storytelling.
Visit libraries and bookstores. This can help break up the monotony of sitting down to read a book at home. Children love a good field trip, so why not incorporate libraries and bookstores? You can put the ownership back on them to choose books that interest them. Most community libraries also offer reading groups and fun drop-in programs.
Choose books that interest your child. If you see your child taking a sudden interest in space, bugs, magic...pick up a few books that embrace that curiosity. Reading doesn't have to be linear and chore-driven, it can be about answering questions they've been pondering. If they are interested in certain movies or TV shows, pick up a book that mirrors the characters. Ex: Paw Patrol books, Jungle Book etc...
Look for interactive books. Some children are more sensory-driven and need to experience cause and effect when learning. There are great interactive books that can engage your child in unconventional ways, whether it's a sticker book with fewer words, "choose your own adventure" fiction books, or textured and pop-up books that require interaction with the pages. "What's Under Your Bed Ted" by Ede Lara is a great example. It comes with a flashlight where you can look for things under your bed, and also flash the light on each page to uncover hidden elements within the story.
Word association is all around us. Books aren't the only ways to encourage language skills. Letters, symbols, and words surround us on a daily basis. You can practice word association while exploring street signs, pointing out letters in the grocery aisles, or even observing phrases on their clothes, (my personal favourite: "Captain Adorable").
If you're still unsure about all this early literacy talk, just take it from Dr. Seuss:
"The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go."
Happy Wednesday...and as always, happy reading!