My son and I are big fans of reading. We love fiction and non-fiction both, although our interests very a little bit. We were thinking about something that would be fun for us to do together on the blog, and book reviews came up. Starting next week, every Thursday we will post a book review. Some will be books best for adults. Some books will be great for kids. Some books will be perfect for mamas and daddys to read with their littles while snuggled in bed. Regardless of what you are looking for, you can find them and upcoming reviews HERE!
I am a big advocate of encouraging kids to read, so to kick start our new “Book Thursday” I thought I would start with a few reading tips that have worked great for us. Our guy spends a lot of time with his nose in a book, so I feel like what we have done works pretty well…although you know your kids best and maybe you have some tips for us! Please give us your suggestions of additional things we can do in our comments section!
No. 1 – Take them to the Library and Bookstores!
I get how easy it is to download a book. We don’t have to get dressed or get in the car or walk anywhere. We can log in, tap a few things, and done! That is fine, but I would also suggest getting out to libraries and bookstores when you can too.
The library is such an essential place full of information and ideas. When we don’t know the answer to a question (“Where do babies come from?” comes to mind) sometimes our answer is “hmmm, I bet the library has a book about that. Let’s go see if we can get some answers!” While you are there, make sure you child signs up for their own library card. In our library, my son can have a library card and is able to check out his own books and the reminder emails come to me so we don’t forget to return things! Most importantly, let your kids pick out the books they want to read. The library is the most economical way to fill your house with books (as long as you return them on time!)! I also like to think of it as a “try before you buy” program. You never know what is going to stick with kids, but this gives you an idea of what their favorite will be and you can spend your money there. Let them feel the books – that paper between their little fingers. Let them smell the books. Let them hear that binding crack with the very first opening. Let them see the words and the pictures as they fill pages with wonder. Maybe don’t let them taste the books, but let their senses be overwhelmed with the experience. I also love the story times for little kids at our library and they host other events for kids of all ages. Our library even does a “read to your pet” event on occasion that the kids get so excited for!
A bookstore is one version of heaven to me (a plant nursery, a ski area, a deserted hiking trail and lots of other things are different versions of heaven to me too!). We are so so lucky in Portland to have some really amazing bookstores. We have one that is so big, it classifies itself as a “City of Books”! One thing we suggest to family members who want to get a gift for our son is a gift card to our favorite book stores. This serves a couple of purposes. One, we are supporting our local businesses which I find hugely important. Two, he gets to go and pick something he is going to be excited about. Three, he gets to buy it himself and is responsible for that experience. In doing all of this, it creates excitement about the books and he can’t wait to get them home. He has discovered that there are so many wonderful things to look at and explore. When you have a book, you are never alone. When you have a book you get to go on adventures without leaving your house. When you have a book imaginations and minds open up and you never know what will come of that! So exciting, right?!
No. 2 – Sell your books to your kids at home!
Speaking of bookstores…
I am not talking about charging them for their books, but you can “market” the books they already have to them. When you are at the books store, which books catch your attention most? The ones where you see only the spines of the books or the ones where you see the covers? 9 out of 10 times it will be the cover that catches your attention and when we have books on shelves, we don’t remember them or feel as attracted to them. By putting books in baskets around the house and switching the books out every so often allows the kiddos to see the covers and be surprised by new books arriving! Station a basket in their room, in the bathroom, in the living/family room, and maybe even one at the breakfast table! We even have one in the car we like to keep stocked with books and crayons and different activities. The basket we have pictured above comes from Ikea and was less than $5!
No. 3 – Get them books that interest them!
I am all for steering kids towards books that will be at their reading level and that is about as far as I go, although I have brought home some books from my childhood I thought he would enjoy (anyone else love “Indian in the Cupboard”?). We sometimes go a little more advanced if I am reading to him but always get books that he has interest in. Nobody likes reading things that are not interesting to them. My kid has always been interested in trying to figure out how things work – his dad is an engineer and he comes by it honestly. Books that talk about the mechanics of things are really interesting to him. He also loves a World Records book and constantly tells us facts he has learned. For a while he was struggling to get into chapter books, so we eased in with Graphic Novels. Please don’t push these off thinking they are just comic books. If they love to read them, let them! Our library has a HUGE selection of them, which is great because he cruises through them so quickly it would be really expensive to buy them constantly! Graphic novels really is proper reading, they have great story lines, they come in varying reading levels and topics, and it will help build the kids vocabulary and confidence. Also, the series can build anticipation for the next books! In our “instant gratification world” this is a really big deal. We don’t have to wait for much of anything anymore. My guy has fallen head over heels for the Amulet Series and the 7th book came out recently. He has been super excited about getting the new books, and since we just found out there will be 9 total he has even more to get excited about!
Studies have shown that boys tend to prefer books that are non-fiction and girls tend to prefer poetry and fiction. We try to sneak a little poetry in on occasion but we see a lot of different books coming through and our guy has a real love of fantasy stories. Things with magic and dragons and witches and wizards and Gods and action! I try not to box him in to a genre, but provide a diverse selection of books. They will figure it out what they really like best. The most recent book he has chosen is called “Zomboy”. No idea about it, but we found it in a book shop in Canada and my guy is super excited about it! Review will come later!
No. 4 – Lights are a big deal!
This is really a suggestion for slightly older kids, but starting young-ish is a great idea too. Make sure your kids have a bedside light so they can read at night or first thing in the morning. We have a light right near his bed that he can turn on and off himself without getting out of bed. It is a dimmer light, but bright enough for reading so it doesn’t mess with his circadian rhythm. He is a really early riser most mornings and we have asked him to stay in bed until 7am. So, the light goes on around 5:30a and he reads until 7. It has worked great for us especially on weekends! In our little trailer, he even has his own reading light that he can use while he is up in the bunk.
We also have a special light for him so he is able to read in the car. The dome light makes it very hard for me to see while driving at night, so we got him a “Light Wedge” that he keeps in his “book box” in the car (the link gives an example of one). It is a light that illuminates the page you are reading, but it doesn’t affect the driver’s vision. His comes with a red light, but they also come with white light. On those fall days when night comes early, this has been really handy for our treks home from activities. We also really love it for road trips!
No. 5 – Read with them!
Lastly, my greatest advice is this and it is perfect for kids of all ages! Just read with your kids. It is such a wonderful bonding time and can bringing up amazing conversations.
You want to know something crazy? When I was pregnant with my son, I would take time during the week to read out loud to him. I would sit in the rocking chair and take 15-20 minutes a couple of times a week and would read sweet little stories that had been given to me. Or that had been saved from my childhood. Or that I had picked up along the way. Winnie the Pooh, Dr. Seuss, “How Much Do I Love You?”, whatever! As a baby we would look at board books together. As a toddler we read simple books together. As a kindergartner, he would read a little to me and I would read a little back. Now we are into big books like Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, the Mysterious Benedict Society and more. I like reading the books that might be a little old for him together so he can ask questions as we go. I try not to get too ahead of myself, and I am far more conservative when it comes to the movies he watches than with the books he reads. He can imagine things in the books within his realm of imagination and experience, rather than someone else showing him what they imagine.
I would also suggest reading to your kids for as long as you can. Not just at night, but read to them for as long as they will let you as they grow. Did you know that kids start losing interest in reading in the 4th grade? By the 12th grade that interest drops to only 12%. You know what tends to happen in the 4th grade? Mom and Dad stop reading to their kids. Let me ask you something, do you enjoy a book on tape? You are having someone read to you! I would argue there is no “too old” age when someone stops wanting story time. Our ancestors told stories to pass our history along. It is in our DNA that stories are important and it doesn’t matter which culture you come from. Stories are so important and we never outgrow that. We might have to adjust schedules a bit, but we plan to keep reading as long our our guy lets us. In fact we do family story time every night where the 3 of us pile into bed and I read for at least a half hour. My husband loves our story time too!
Now it is your turn. What are some of your favorite reading tips? What do you do to encourage reading in your house with your kids? Tell us!