My daughter loves to read. She does it all on her own, with no coaxing at all from me. Well... OK, that's not exactly true. The thing is, she just doesn't realize she's been coaxed into reading her entire life. I believe a love for reading starts early -- very early and in the home. I homeschool my daughter now, but we did spend the first couple of years in the public school system and I distinctly remember volunteering to help second-graders who were having trouble reading. I would volunteer every Tuesday and Thursday for about 40 minutes and in that time I would see three students. They would woefully carry their basket of books into the library to meet with me, sit down at a table, conducive to discomfort, and proceed to read to me for 15-20 minutes. They never did get comfortable with it and it felt almost impossible as I was never guaranteed to see the same child twice. For me, it was painful to sit through and I knew in my heart that this was not the way a child should learn to read. Ultimately, and unfortunately to no avail, I recommended to the school that we try a different approach: comfy couches perhaps? Maybe the volunteers reading to the child as a way for them to experience the joy that comes with being read to... being up close and personal and allowing them those simple, engaging moments not every child gets at home. Sometimes overwhelmed and understaffed, schools are often slow to catch up with new and enlightening trends, but here are some things you can do at home to help ensure your child develops a love for reading.
Start Early. Infancy is not too young. In fact, I know many mothers who start reading to their babies while still in the womb. My sister did just that and strongly feels it made an impact on her son. Honestly, the younger your child is, the more likely he or she will stay engaged as they grow older. The underlying reason being, that your child will associate reading with love. They will relate those memories of reading with the connection and bond you both developed and nurtured over the years. Reading and love will go hand-in-hand and being read to will consistently be a source of contentment and peace; a way to soothe them when they need it. Side bonus, it's good to know every Dr. Seuss book by heart; goes over great at parties!
Create Reading Nooks Everywhere. I scatter books throughout the house. In every room, you will find an inviting book just crying out to be picked up. The kitchen hutch, right by the breakfast table, every nightstand in every bedroom, an old-fashioned magazine rack bolted to the wall, bookshelves in the family room, and a basket on the hearth that we switch out with specifically selected books that help bring in new seasons or holidays.
Go to the Library. Seems like an obvious one, but I'm surprised at how little my town library seems to be used these days. When I was a kid, we lived in an area that was fairly remote and we had a book mobile that used to come to our small, isolated neighborhood. I cannot put into words the joy those visits brought me! Libraries offer so many resources; you'll find story times for all age groups, craft activities, book clubs, groups for teens and so much more. I'm even starting to see libraries offer more than books. I've read about libraries growing with the times and lending out tools and other household items as well. Even 3D printers are starting to become available!
Read All the Time, every day. Reading at our house is as important as brushing our teeth. No TV at bedtime and, in fact, there are no TVs in any of the bedrooms in our house. Reading time happens every night and we continually change it up so it doesn't get stale. Sometimes I still read to my daughter, sometimes we read together, and sometimes she reads to herself, but it is always how she ends her day ... which also leads to her starting off her day reading because she remembers that she was into something before she fell asleep. In addition, I read to her at least once at some point every single day. I think a lot of parents think their kids no longer need to be read to once they start reading on their own, but they still value the moments and memories that come from being read to.
Get Caught Reading, in case it wasn't implied in the last tip. Be seen reading yourself. Read for pleasure; be the example. Like so many things in life, nothing could ever work quite as well as being their example.
Start a Book Club. We started a book club for my daughter and her friends when they were five, we're still going strong after three years. At first I picked the books, simple story books about strength, empowerment, giving back, family, finances, etc. Everyone came prepared with at least one question for the group. After our discussion we had a craft and snacks. Today they take turns picking the books, have pretty great discussions, and have been inspired to do many things beyond the book club like volunteering. We even sponsored a child last year at Christmas.
So put down that phone for ten minutes, pick up a favorite book and read to your child. As the ever wise Dr. Seuss once said, "The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go."
This post originally appeared in StoneSoup.com. Sara, a retired flight attendant, is a homeschooling mom to her daughter Lucy. Together they created The Friends Book Club. Sara keeps busy in the world of travel through her own blog, theflyingpinto.com. She has been featured in many national publications, including Oprah's O Magazine and Parents Magazine.