Raising Up Readers

Make it a rule never to give a child a book

The statistics can be scary: it appears that children are reading less and less. Despite the statistics, I remain hopeful that future generations will continue to read books and appreciate literature. We are wired to love good stories and I feel hopeful that no amount of technology will change that. I do think we need to encourage our kids to read by reading with them and also challenging them to read on their own.

Despite all the learning benefits, I want my children to love to read for no other reason than for pleasure. Reading was such an important part of my childhood. I’m trying to pass that love down to my children. It isn’t always easy in this world of many distractions.

Thankfully my kids have learned to have a passion for reading. It’d be easy to say it’s because I love to read, as if it’s a genetic thing that has been passed down. But, the more I think about it, it’s not an accident or some genetic code that they love to read. That would be like saying they enjoy chocolate because I enjoy chocolate. No, they like chocolate because it tastes delicious. My son and daughter love to read because they like good stories.

It does take some effort on our part. We have to find the right books and set an environment that encourages them to read. We need to make reading apart of our lives.

Here are some ideas that have worked for me…

Be Intentional

As my daughter reads more and more stories on her own, I’m realizing how important it is to monitor what she’s reading. I kind of assumed that if the book was in the Juvenile section at the library that it’d be “safe” but we’ve been duped one too many times by sweet-looking covers only to find out in casual conversation that the book was about the main character running away from home or another character was dealing with an alcoholic parent or some other less than ideal situation. I’m not trying to keep her from reality, but she’ll learn those hard truths about life soon enough. For now, I want her reading life to be filled with stories that will inspire her and fill her heart with happiness. I’m seeking out quality books for her and for my son.

For ideas, I look at various websites, including the Library of Congress website, the American Library Association, and several other websites for book ideas and recommendations. Whether you homeschool or not, homeschool curriculum websites are a great place to load up on book ideas for all ages. I’d start with Sonlight since they are known for their readers. I also read online reviews on Amazon and Goodreads.

After you’ve found some good ideas for your kids, then….

Take them to the library.

When I enter a library, I feel like I’m entering holy ground. Whatever was happening in your life – the rushing, the noise, the talking, the attitudes, etc. – is over as soon as you walk through those doors. Suddenly, you’re quiet, reverent and respectful. It’s sacred.

I started taking the kids to the library because I wanted to go. But now they love it too. I giggle when they are pleading with me, “Can we pleeeeaaase go to the library today?” They have no idea what little book nerds they’re becoming! I consider it to be one of my greatest achievements.

I don’t have the research to prove it but I feel like taking our children to the library makes them better people. I’ve been forcing my children to learn the Dewey Decimal system. In a world of Google and instant answer, they buck against it sometimes but I want them to learn this simple skill that allows them to have a world of information within their grasps.

Even if you’re not much of a reader, take your children to the library. Our local library has lots of fun activities for kids, beyond the basic story time. Last spring our local branch had a cooking class where they made dog biscuits to donate to the local animal shelter. The shelter coordinator brought in some bunnies. My kids loved it. And guess what? It was FREE.

Once you’re home…

Surround ‘em with books and make it easy to read.

We have piles of books all around our house – by the couches, in our rooms, in the dinning room. Basically wherever you can sit down in our house, you will probably find a book within arm’s reach. We also limit TV time and video game time. We went several years without cable TV and as a result we hardly watch TV anymore. The biggest blessing that came from it was that now when the kids want to be entertained they reach for a book.

Read Together

Some of my favorite times of the day are when we’re reading a book together. We’ve had some very interesting discussion because of the books we’ve read and some good laughs, too. Oh, the joy I feel when my kids chant, “One more chapter!” As an added bonus, I love the cuddle time we have when we’re reading together. It’s something I’m appreciating even more as the kids get older and busier.

Read On Your Own

I thought this article was interesting. The author argues it isn’t because of electronics that children aren’t reading but actually because their parents aren’t reading. Either way, it’s a good reminder that we need to set the example for our kids. Whatever I’m expecting them to do, I try to “walk the walk” myself. If I make them wear their bicycle helmet, I wear mine. If I’m expecting them to limit their video game time, then I limit my Facebook time. If I’m asking them to read more, then I show them by reading more. Kids are so smart. They see right through our words and straight to our actions.

So make time for reading. Let your kids see you reading and enjoying a book. Or read one together. You won’t regret it.

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