Our resident children’s librarian, Janssen, has been peppering MPMK with all sorts of great book lists this summer (see them here). But recently I realized that as amazing as those lists are, I’m not fully tapping her potential. So, with school back in session, I thought now we be a good time to ask for her thoughts on how to raise book-lovers. Here’s what she had to say…
As a voracious lifelong reader, I care deeply about helping my children learn to enjoy reading.
Of course, if reading isn’t their pastime of choice, that’s okay with me but I do want it to be something they have good associations with, rather than something they resist or see as unpleasant and tedious.
Whether your child is just beginning to show an interest in books or is struggling with reading and finding it more frustrating than rewarding, here are some ways to make books and reading a wonderful and pleasant part of life:
- Don’t push them to graduate to harder books too quickly. If your child is still enjoying and loving picture books, don’t push the chapter books too hard. Picture books are full of great language (often more difficult than you’ll find in easy readers or beginning chapter books), excellent plots, and beautiful illustrations. When your child is ready for more of a challenge, they’ll let you know. In the meantime, don’t turn them off to reading by making them feel dumb about their choice of books or making them read something they aren’t quite ready for.
- Try a new genre. It’s easy to push the kinds of books you like on your child (fiction or novels, for instance), but your child may find that reading a different type of book makes a huge difference. Graphic novels can be really great way to make reading seem new and different. When I worked as a librarian, I noticed that many kids (boys in particular) gravitated toward non-fiction rather than fiction. Play around with new genres and forms and see if you can find something that’s a good fit. Ask your librarian for suggestions if you aren’t familiar with the genre.
- Read aloud to them. Children can comprehend on a much higher level than they can read themselves, so let them experience books that they’ll love but might not be able to read themselves by reading aloud to them. I let my daughter color or play with playdough or Legos while I read to her, which keeps her hands busy while she listens. This is particularly effective if your child is struggling with reading, because it allows them to have positive experiences with reading instead of just spending all their reading time struggling to sound words out or make sense of a string of words.
- Let them choose books. Since I make a hobby of keeping track of new books (or great old classics), it’s tempting to do all the choosing of books at the library or bookstore. But I’ve found that when I let my daughter choose a few of her own books, she’s much more excited about them, and willing to let me read my choices to her too. And if they aren’t great books? Oh well.
- Give audiobooks a try. Like reading aloud to your child, an audiobook can introduce your child to the joy of a great story even if they can’t read it themselves yet. It also helps develop listening skills (which is great for school), and exposes them to various reading styles and voices. It also gives the whole family a chance to share the reading experience together as you drive to soccer practice or on a road trip.
- Keep books accessible. Whether it’s a low bookshelf or a basket on the floor to hold library books, keep your books somewhere that your child can get to them on her own. She’ll be much more likely to pick them up if she can do so without an adult’s help, and looking through pictures and identifying a plot are great pre-reading skills.
- Let them see you reading. Sit down with a book and read for five minutes. Give your child a stack of picture books and have him look through them while you read your own novel (personally, I find that my child responds much better if I’m reading a paper book, rather than a digital one). Help your child see that reading is a fun and exciting part of an adult’s life too, not just a chore that children have to slog through.
Question of the Day
What are your tips for helping your child love books and reading?