Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Raising a Reader

This is a post that I wrote for my parenting blog http://clevermamas.blogspot.com

"I love books, I love the library!" my 5 year old shouted at me, holding his new treasures in his arms.
"Mama, read this me?" my 2 year old asked holding a copy of Max's Toys by Rosemary Wells up at me.
How did I create such a joy of reading at young age? Well, it's something I didn't really think about at all, it's just something I did. Reading is something that I love and naturally shared with my children. I didn't think much of it until my husband mentioned to me that reading wasn't a big part of his childhood. He never would have thought to bring the kids to the library as a regular occurrence, but he's happy and appreciative that I do.
So you may be wondering where to begin. How do you get kids to like books? How do you raise a reader?
I started reading to my little ones at quite an early age (infants). Books for infants have a lot of repitition and soft words. As they get to be a little older, their books can become part of their toy collection. Soft books for chewing on and books with texture and bright colours to capture their senses. I also enrolled my children in a local library program called, "Babies in the Library". This was geared for infants to 18 month old babies and involved a lot of rhyme, finger play and dancing with other parents and their babies. The program lasted for 4-6 weeks at a time and rotated through the local libraries.
As my kids grew older going to the library just became a regular part of our lives. We would go every couple of weeks, each checking out books and DVDs that interested us. My 5 year old is a huge hockey fan and knows exactly where the hockey books are located. We've gone to many different library programs including toddler time, preschool time and the summer reading club. Most libraries will offer such programs. If you aren't sure where to begin, your local children's librarian can be a wealth of knowledge for you. They can help you find age appropriate and interest appropriate books for you and your child to enjoy.
We've also made reading a part of our night-time routine. Each of our kids has story time with mom or dad every night. We read anywhere from 1 to 3 books together. My husband is a great one for making the stories more dramatic with interesting voices for the different characters which makes our kids laugh. I often will ask questions about the pictures or what they think will happen next in the story. I will also mix up words of familiar stories intentionally to see if they catch me (they usually do).
Sometimes my kids and I will read side by side. I'll be into my own book and they will be 'reading' theirs. Kids imitate and learn what they see. If they see mom or dad into a book, chances are their interest in reading will be elevated.
Neither of my children read words yet, but they both do a great job at storytelling. They will use the pictures as cues to tell what is going on. This is a great first step to reading. My older son can pick out the letters and some common words, which he finds encouraging.
As your kids get older it becomes even more important that the books they are reading are ones that interest them and isn't at a too difficult reading level. There is no point in forcing a book about horses onto your son who is really into detectives. Find a good mystery book instead.
Once you've opened the mystery of reading with your children you've unlocked a lifelong treasure.

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