The love of reading is possibly the most important gift we can give our children. For those of you who read yesterday’s post, you already know that I think books are the single most important gifts to put under your tree (or included in your own cultural gift giving exchange) because that is how we share and teach the love of reading.
Regardless of how well we do our jobs as parents, we cannot possibly share all that the world has to offer. Even if we were able to do the impossible and share everything that we know, our knowledge is inherently restricted by our preferences, by the things that we like and dislike. Even as we encourage independence and finding your own path, our individualities are the first frame of reference for our children, the first boundaries that they are aware of.
Reading is a crucial way that children can broaden their own horizons beyond that of their parents, their families, their teachers, their communities, and their gatekeepers. By demonstrating and encouraging a love of reading, we help our children explore the world beyond their early borders, expand their understanding, and find their own passions. Thus, we give them an essential tool to finding their own paths.
Sounds good, but how do we demonstrate and encourage a love of reading? It seems like a fairly straightforward process but I am simply amazed at how often I hear things like “oh, my child doesn’t like books” or “my kid has no interest in reading”.
Interests and “likes” will come, go, re-emerge and depart again — likely many times throughout childhood. (Of course, this is true for reading, different foods, habits, toys, places, even people!) As with things of this nature, the key is persistence. We have to cultivate tenacity in the re-introduction of things that are good for them. Books are no exception.
Not only do we need to give them books, we need to read to them and with them. Make reading a special and fun bonding time. Allow them to pick out their own books, first at libraries then later at book stores.
We need to demonstrate our love of and appreciation for reading by reading and talking about what we read. Let your children see you reading (books are best, but any reading is better than none). Let them hear you talking about your reading.
There are so many ways to encourage reading. We’ve experimented with some. You might even say that we’ve made some progress. Our daughter is only 4 years old, but we’ve been reading to her since she was in utero. With contributions from our family and friends, we stocked her first book shelves before she was born. As you can see in the pics from yesterday’s timeline of reading and in the videos below, this child loves to read!
Video 1, About 8 months old — Of course, not reading and not really even looking at pictures but – here is the important part: getting familiar with books. And maybe chewing on books, too. That’s what “board books” are for!
Video 2, Not quite 1.5 years old (16 months) — Papa had read this story at least five times in one sitting, then I grabbed the camera for the final, super-fast read through. Definite interaction and understanding going on here. (That is the dryer noise in the background.)
Video 3, Two years old — Her “reading” the book I Love You Through and Through. Clearly familiar with books, this particular story, and the concept of reading to people as in “here, let me come read this to you”. (My heart is melting a little.)
Video 4, Two & half years old — Reading a Curious George book with Mama. Being read to, and then jumping in and ‘reading’ on her own (that starts about 2-3 minutes into video). Comprehension and serious memory exercise happening here. (Sounds of the sea in the background are a little loud.)
Video 5, Almost three years old — Reciting (or ‘reading’) from one of her favorite books of poems, Rhymes Around the World by Kay Chorao. She knows these rhymes because we have read them about a million times. She studies the pictures, associates them with the words, and then takes it out to the real world, as in “do you want to go ride in my wagon?” Well, hell yeah! Errr…wait, not supposed to curse…I mean “Why, yes! That would be lovely!”
Video 6, A little closer to three years old — Reciting/reading from A Cuddle for Little Duck by Claire Freedman. She asks for help to get started but obviously knows the story. (Please excuse our partially landscaped backyard!)
Video 7, Three years old — Reciting excerpts from Horton Hatches the Egg without the book to prompt her. See first clip of this post: Reciting Horton
These video clips are not the most magnificent recordings and sometimes show a little too much (uncombed hair! parents in their pajamas! not a perfectly kept house! a house without walls?!). But perfect videos weren’t my intent when recording them. I share them now, with all our flaws, because I hope to inspire others to encourage a love of reading.(Plus my familia will most definitely enjoy the series!). I share this with thanks to all of our tribe, who taught us to love books and shared the gift of books with our child.
Lots of subjects that I just touched on here…plans to expand on those more in the near future. But to sum it all up…
I hope that our child’s love of reading lasts throughout her life. I hope this love of reading helps her to find her own path and her own passions. I hope her love of reading inspires others to find their own love of reading, growth, and exploration.