Raising Readers: A Mom and Former Teacher Shares Her Thoughts
I'm almost ashamed to admit this: I don't love reading. I have joined many book clubs, own a Kindle and have a library card. I want to love reading. I just don't crave it or get lost in books like I wish I could. I do like to read before bed, though. It helps me turn off my brain. But as a mother, I want to instill a love of reading in my kids. In my former life before motherhood, I was a teacher. I taught in a few different districts in two states ranging in ages from preschool to elementary. Kids are sponges. We have amazing opportunities as parents to decide how to fill those sponges. Raising kids who like to read has always been important to me. I didn't care if they were bookworms with their noses constantly tucked into a book, but I wanted them to grow up enjoying sitting down with a book. I've always been very intentional about how books have a place in our lives and that they are treasured and celebrated.
Create a Special Place to Read
I like making toys easily picked up and put out of sight but also accessible to my kids. This way, as my babies grow and became more independent, they have capabilities to reach their toys and can be in charge of entertaining themselves with age-appropriate playthings. I like to have books within reach too, but I intentionally put them in a different area than the toys. I want my children to know that books are treated differently than toys. Books have a special place whether in a bin, on a shelf or in a box. It's amazing to watch as your baby sits up, grabs a book, figures out how to crawl with it in her hands and turns the pages in the correct direction, which is a foundational step to becoming literate.
Regular Library Trips
Kids love reading books over and over again, but it is also fun to get new books. The library is, of course, the best place to get new books for free. Most libraries have programs for little kids — special readers, story time, informational guests and fun entertainment. As a student/young adult, I viewed the library as a depressing place to study, so it didn't seem like a place I should take my children. However, libraries know how to appeal to children. Bright colors, comfortable furniture, enticing artwork all activate children's sense of awe and they are immediately drawn in. Books become enticing, too. The library is a great place to read new books and discover new authors and series. The librarians who worked where we visited got to know my children. They became a great resource for new books and authors they might like. We like to check out a lot of books at one time, so I started keeping all library books in a special basket in the living room. They are easier to keep up with when they are due — no more stressing as you comb the house for that last book!
I had a few snapshots of my kids and wasn't sure what to do with them. I knew they loved looking at pictures of themselves and thought they would love reading books about themselves, too. I created an easy-to-read book using these leftover snapshots as the book illustrations (when my kids were — what age? Toddlers?). It turned out to be one of their favorite books to read and reread, so I made a few others too. In them I used repetitive text and short sentences, similar to kids' books: This is Ali. This is Ali's brother, Emmett. Ali loves to play with blocks and with her dollhouse. I cut construction paper in half and glued a picture on each page of the book. I handwrote the text under the pictures, and the pages were bound with string. While it was hardly ready for Pinterest, my kids didn't care! If you consider yourself less than crafty, there are digital options you can create and order online with easy-to-use templates. Once the kids memorize the pattern of the text, the familiar pictures give them the word clues that they need to read it on their own. This also helped my kiddos learn how to recognize their name and their siblings' names in print, and it prompted them learn their full name — added bonuses I hadn't planned on!
Reading Before Bed
Reading a book before bedtime is such a wonderful habit to create for your children. It fosters great opportunities for snuggling, connection and communication. It also helps to establish a bedtime routine. As they get older, I like to make sure my kiddos pick out a flashlight that they can manage on their own. It stays next to their bed so they can use it after the lights get turned out to "read" books in bed until they are ready to fall asleep. It also eliminates the need for them to complain that they aren't sleepy yet and should get to stay up a little longer. It's OK if they aren't sleepy, they can read for a little bit!
Again, I'm OK with my kids not being bookworms. I do, however, want them to know how magical reading can be and what a privilege it is to be a reader. With the weather heating up, I am always looking for programs in the community that support reading.
- The Dallas Public Library's Mayor's Summer Reading Club encourages a love of reading for all ages and offers really cool and desirable weekly prizes if you keep track of your children's time reading. They have adult prizes, too! Go to the Dallas Public Library's site for more information.
- The Fort Worth Library has kids' reading programs, including "Worth Reading," a partnership between the library, Fort Worth ISD and other community organizations, and McKinney and Richardson libraries and have summer reading programs and activities with prizes awarded at the end of the summer.
- Half Price books has special event story times throughout the summer. Find a Half Price Books store near you and their events and times.
- Barnes and Noble has a Summer Reading Triathlon where kids in grades 1 through 6 can earn a free book. Really cool! Click here to get specific details and instructions.
Here is a list of recommended books by the Association for Library Service to Children to help you get started. See a list of recommended books by age group.
Birth – preschool
Baa, Baa, Black Sheep by Jane Cabrera
I Hear a Pickle (and Smell, See, Touch, and Taste It, Too!) by Rachel Isadora
The Princess and the Pony by Kate Beaton
Sidewalk Flowers by JonArno Lawson
Snappsy the Alligator (Did Not Ask to Be in This Book!) by Julie Falatko
Kindergarten – Grade 2
Are We There Yet? by Dan Santat
Duck, Duck, Dinosaur by Kallie George
Earmuffs for Everyone! How Chester Greenwood Became Known as the Inventor of Earmuffs by Meghan McCarthy
Get a Hit, Mo! by David A. Adler
Ten Rules of Being a Superhero by Deb Pilutti
Grades 3 – 5
Crimebiters! My Dog Is Better than Your Dog by Tommy Greenwald
Fable Comics edited by Chris Duffy
My Diary from the Edge of the World by Jody Lynn Anderson
Upside-Down Magic by Sarah Mlynowski, Lauren Myracle and Emily Jenkins
Wet Cement: A Mix of Concrete Poems by Bob Raczka
Grades 6 – 8
Booked by Kwame Alexander
Fatal Fever: Tracking Down Typhoid Mary by Gail Jarrow
Hour of the Bees by Lindsay Eagar
The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare
Some Kind of Courage by Dan Gemeinhart
I may not be the best one to give reading advice — I gave up on book clubs and finally started a wine club — I'm doing my best to help my kids to grow up enjoying books.
Carrie G. is a full-time mom of three, part-time chauffer, underpaid chef and amazing cheerleader in Dallas.