Currently four of our six children are avid readers, including all three of our boys. Several people have asked what we did. Honestly, I'm not positive what had the largest impact, but these are tips I share with others. Hope you find them helpful!
1. Read to them from birth.
We started reading to our infants from the beginning. When they are really young, it doesn't matter what you read; it's your tone that matters. SO, I read books on my reading list, magazine articles, or newspapers to them in a soothing voice. If you're studying for an important test, read the material aloud to them. They just like hearing your voice. Eventually, it will matter, and you will need to include children's books into your rotation, lol.
2.Read in a way that is engaging for toddlers.
I can read the same book in many different ways. Of course, there's your basic read the words on the page- you can change your voice, speed, cadence, accent, or pacing to make it more interesting to your child. Sometimes we only discuss the pictures pointing out objects they are familiar with or are of particular interest at that time.
3. Make the story interactive.
Once they know the alphabet, you can ask them to point, clap, stand up, send a secret signal, or smile when they see a particular letter. You can do the same with colors, shapes, emotions, animals, or numbers too. If they start to get a little antsy, you can also read a page and ask them to find a particular item in the house. While reading about trains, you can ask them to get you a train.
4. Ask lots of questions
Is the character on this page happy, excited, anxious, frustrated, or sad? How many cars are on this page? Where is the sun? Can you make a sad face? How many sisters do you have? Is that more or fewer than the character in the book? Is it hot or cold in this book- how do you know? What do you think will happen next? Why is the main character upset or making poor choices? Would you rather be this character or that one?
5. Invite them to read to you
With repetition, the kids knew the stories and, therefore, words before they learned to read. When I'm reading with my two-year-old, I stop when I get to a word she knows so she can say it. If she pauses too long, I start it, and we say it together. She gets so excited to 'read' with mommy. As she learns more words, I'll increase how much she reads to me.
6. Include reading as an activity
We have game time, nap time, screen time, cleaning time, snack time, and reading time. Reading isn't the last resort in our house. Only after you've exhausted all possibilities, you pick up a book. NO, reading is a coveted activity just as much as board game or screen time is. Everyone doesn't have the same zeal for reading, but we all have to spend time doing it daily.
7. Allow them to select books of interest.
With few exceptions, the kids are allowed to select their own books. This contradicts some reading philosophies that purport children should only read classics. With screen time, I don't force them only to watch documentaries, so I extend that concept to reading. I do think that philosophy contributed to my kids' love of books. With emerging readers, I allow them to get books at and below grade level while I'd read books above grade level to them until they were ready for the challenge.
8. Use books to learn about new cultures and locations
There are several children's books where characters travel to far-off lands for exploration or to learn about different cultures. Look for books with diverse characters, settings, names, and ethnicities to offer a worldview that may be different than they experience daily because of where you live. This can be a way to prepare for vacations, cultivate a love of travel, or embrace new friends.
9. Visit the library often
Many of our librarians remember my family from hours spent reviewing and selecting books. For years, it was a second home. We did have a rule of no reading in the car on the way home from the library. When the car was too quiet on our 5 minute drive home, I knew someone started a book. I'd engage them in songs or conversation until we made it home. Our schedule would be to visit the library from 10-noon, go home for lunch, then have reading or nap time. During our most active library phase, this occurred 2-3 times a week.
10. Keep books in the bedroom.
When our children were little, we were fortunate enough to have a toy room
and did not keep toys in the bedroom. However, each bedroom had a bookshelf filled with books. Books were on their birthday registries, purchased from thrift stores or library book sales. Keeping books in the bedroom encouraged reading. If a child couldn't sleep, they picked up a book. If they were sent to their room, they read a book. If they needed to escape the activity of a large family or got bored with the movie selection, they went to their room and found a book.
I love audiobooks, especially on long drives. There are several books we listened to as a family while on vacation. Unfortunately, the older my kids got, the less they enjoyed them. I have to admit, it usually takes a lot longer to listen than to read a book. However, listening to books fit into my life better than reading because I can listen while completing a chore or going for a walk. Sometimes, I use earbuds while other times I don't. Recently, I've had several conversations about books I'm currently listening to with my children as a result of them overhearing the book.
Hopefully, a few of these tips will help you raise book connoisseurs. I'm not going to tell you that if your kids see you reading all of the time, they'll do the same. I have two children who aren't big readers, even with the example I set. If you're feeling overwhelmed or need to focus on a few suggestions at a time, keeping a variety of books around the house, allowing them to read below and at grade level while you read above level, and sharing the excitement of learning something new from books are my top three takeaways.