When we received the news of our first pregnancy, my husband and I were overjoyed. One of the first things we shared with our little one was the pleasure of reading. We began to explore how to encourage the love of reading in our children.
Saturday afternoons sped by as we read aloud the gentle adventures of Winnie the Pooh and his friends. My husband and I were convinced that our yet-to-be-born little boy enjoyed the stories as much as we did.
Start Early to Encourage a Love of Reading
It’s never too early to share your favorite children’s books with your little one. Starting early helps them appreciate that you encourage the love of reading. As early as six months in utero, a child can hear sounds outside the womb and even recognize voices. The rhythm and cadence of lovingly read printed language will make a positive and lasting impression on your baby even before birth.
Be Creative with Reading Time
After your babe has made a dazzling entrance, keep reading! Encourage the love of reading by reading aloud during feeding sessions, bath times, and, of course, bedtime.
Here are some simple ways to encourage the love of reading into your baby’s routine:
- While feeding your little snuggle buddy, read aloud a few of those wonderful board book gifts from your baby shower. She might not be able to appreciate the illustrations just yet, but the words will entertain and soothe.
- During bath time, play an audiobook in the background. Mother Goose’s rich patterns of rhythm and rhyme will be a valuable addition to the baby bath routine.
- Bedtime is prime time for sharing a favorite book with your bundled little. Choose a sleepy text and a favorite stuffed animal, and you’re on your way into dreamland. (As children get older, they may request the same book every single night, and that’s a reason to celebrate. Their desire to hear one book many times demonstrates that there’s something captivating in the text. They’re engaged in story—what could be better?)
Create Your Book Collection to Encourage the Love of Reading
Owning and taking care of a colorful book collection will give your child a feeling of participating in something meaningful. Buying books for your children is a precious investment, but there are lots of ways to gather a wide range of excellent, high-interest titles for your child
When family or friends ask, as they always do, what to buy your little one for a birthday or holiday gift, answer, “Books!” Not only will they enjoy choosing titles for your little library, you and your child will have many delightful moments with those gifts.
Some additional resources for building an epic book collection:
- Resale-retail establishments like thrift stores and donation centers
- Tag sales, garage sales, basement sales
- Rotating playgroup or neighborhood collections
Focus on Your Child’s Interests
Ensure your child’s personal library evolves to reflect his or her interests. Does he love bears? Then of course there must be bear books aplenty. Does she enjoy baking? Have an entire children’s cookbook section. Your family is moving to the Pacific Coast? Add a few field guides for young naturalists to your collection.
Expand Vocabulary by Drawing Attention to Words
Reading in its earliest forms will often involve environmental print—words your child will encounter during a regular day. Together, search for words like, “stop,” “walk,” “mail,” “Cheerios,” “milk,” “Target,” etc. Have conversations about what a particular word might be and celebrate your child’s best guesses. Celebrating the smallest literacy achievements makes forward progress highly likely.
Resist Forcing Interaction with Text
While enthusiastic encouragement is a must, resist forcing a child to interact with text. Over-eager questioning might cause a hesitant little learner to shrink from any word-related activity.
With no expectations, point and read aloud the name of the crackers on her tray, the traffic sign near your house, names on mailboxes, and signs at the farmer’s market. Simply model recognizing environmental text while you’re with your child and they’ll soon want to “play” reading too.
Launch Pad Books to Encourage a Love of Reading
Children who may lean away from reading can often be enticed to lean back in when books become launching pads for story-inspired adventures. Activities like these expand concepts presented by authors and motivate readers to consider character experiences, test facts, and ask additional questions. Each of these generates—you guessed it—more reading. Some examples:
Donuts—The Hole Story by David Miles—Read then plan a trip to a donut shop or three. If possible, see how the donuts are made. Buy a dozen and create a scene like those in the book. Before eating your donut scene, sketch and label it for the fridge gallery. (More options—sculpt clay donuts, describe and draw donuts for aliens, or create a donut shop jingle.)
The Gifts of the Animals by Carole Gerber—Read the book then plan a trip to a live nativity scene. Take the book along and compare/contrast the scenes. Make note of any questions generated by the visit and search for answers later. (More options—reenact the story for a family gathering, re-tell the nativity story from an animal’s point of view, or volunteer to be part of a nativity cast.)
We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen—Take the book to a park for reading. Re-enact a bear hunt and find some mud to “squerch” through. Make up a few verses of your own and tuck them into the back of your book for sharing at the next family gathering. (More options—visit a cave and explore speleology, create a map of the hunt, or take a zoo trip and make a list of all the animals that might take the place of the bear in the book.)
Foster Multi-Generational Reading Love
The privilege of nurturing my own passionate readers began as soon as the pregnancy test read positive, continued through the preschool and school years, and has now entered a new phase. Enjoying books with my glorious grandchildren is a highlight in this season of life.
Adding to their book collections; sharing books with warm, squishy toddlers; and taking trips to the library are even better the second time around. Introducing my favorite book characters to my older granddaughter has been almost as wonderful as hearing about her favorite book people. Playing literature-based games together—hello, Nancy Drew interactive games—will be a fond memory I hope she carries into her adulthood.
Encouraging the love of reading is a gift that can be given to readers of any age. Read together, talk together, laugh and learn together—share your love of reading today and make your family happy.
Susan Holt Simpson is a freelance writer living in northern Kentucky. She earned her Master’s degree and Bachelor’s degree in elementary education at Northern Kentucky University, married her childhood sweetheart more than thirty years ago, and is learning to enjoy her almost-empty nest. Her jittery, spotted dog inspired the soon-to-be-released Familius title, Teach Your Dog to Read. To learn more about Susan, visit www.SusanHoltSimpson.com.