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Raising A Reader

Is it possible to get kids to love books even more than video games?

We currently have 122 children’s books in our house, give or take a few.

My kids could probably tell you most of the story lines in each of them. They remember what the Old Lady says in Goodnight Moon or what comes after the Blue Horse in Brown Bear.  They have learned their alphabet and numbers, about animals, rescue vehicles, princesses, sharing and virtues, cooking, colors, the list is endless.

They love to read.

But this isn’t status quo. Not all kids are as excited about books. With the mass amounts of toys, video games, and just busyness of life, getting a kid to read a book can be a chore.

A friend of mine Nicole and her husband Jason are avid readers. In fact, their ten-year-old son Evan is so hooked on books that “we have rules about no books at mealtime because otherwise Evan would never speak to us,” Nicole said.

But when her younger daughter Maya turned 3 she went through a phase where she didn’t want to read. “All she wanted to do was the ‘I Spy’ books and those are mind-numbing for Jason and I.” But, Nicole says they purchased them anyhow.

“We just figured picture books are better than zero books, so we went with it,” Nicole said.

“That is the right thinking,” says Pat Greedan, Head of Youth Services for the Grayslake Area Public Library. “It’s not important what they read, as long as they read.”

Greedan suggests giving your child reading material in whatever they might be interested in: cars, trucks, horses, animals, babies, wizardry, sports; and, in whatever form necessary: magazines, novels, fiction or non-fiction, graphic novels, comic books, even cook books.

For parents with young children, the best way to raise a reader is to start when they are infants, even only a few weeks old. “In the beginning the child is listening and absorbing. It becomes habit for them,” Greedan says.

Even if you don’t think the child is listening to the story, they are learning which way to hold a book, which way is up and which way is down, that you read from left to right, that you start at the beginning and you finish at the end. In as little as five minutes, a child can learn something from reading with you.

“The best way to have a reader is to be a reader. We as parents have to be excited about the books and talk about them,” Greedan said. And this isn’t just mom’s job. Dads should also spend time reading with their children, either co-reading, reading to them, or having the child read the story aloud.

Also, take cues from your child. Are they ready for something more challenging? Are they ready for more words on the page? Have them start pointing out words they know, or numbers and letters they are familiar with.

For Nicole, it was important to move Maya to the next step in reading so she purchased the ‘I Spy’ books that doesn’t list the pictures, but instead prints the words of the pictures to find.

“That really motivated Maya to sound out the words and find the pictures,” Nicole said. Maya eventually returned to reading regular stories.

What works in our house is to have the kids’ books on low shelves so they can have access to them all the time. When Abby and Zach wake up in the morning or after their nap they immediately get a book and start ‘reading’ it – making up their own story along with the pictures.

When I have work to do on the computer, I have them bring a book over and read it next to me. Abby loves to play dolls so she lines up her babies and reads to them. I always bring books to church, restaurants and doctor’s offices. We also try to go the library weekly to look at and borrow the books there. Zach and Abby would bring home dozens of books if I let them. And, we read to them several times a day, at the minimum, before bed every night.

That may be one of the easiest times to incorporate reading into your routine. It calms the kids down and gets them to sit and relax. “Even a kid that doesn’t LOVE to read will probably choose that over just going to bed early,” Nicole pointed out.

“If books are a familiar part of your family's life from the very beginning, and you work with your kids on letters, phonics and reading together, I think reading will come pretty naturally to most children,” she added.

The Grayslake Area Public Library offers reading programs for young kids, teens and adults. For more information check out their .

A few of our favorite books include: Busy Town books by Richard Scarry, The Pinkalicious series by Elizabeth Kann and Victoria Kann, The Brown Bear series by Eric Carle, Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown, Over in the Jungle and other books by Marianne Collins Berkes.

Here are some tips on helping you raise a reader:

 INFANTS:

  • Snuggle up with your baby. The baby will feel secure from being close and hearing your voice.
  • It is ok to let your baby touch and hold the book.
  • Board books and bath books can be treated as toys, but they will help them learn how to handle books, how to turn pages and how to enjoy the shapes, colors and pictures.
  • Choose books with simple, clear pictures. Babies like faces and bold, high contrast pictures.
  • Rhymes, songs and simple soothing text appeal to babies.
  • Tell your baby and young child nursery rhymes and repeat them often.

 TODDLERS:

  • Choose books that are predictable, repetitive, or encourage sound/movement.
  • Encourage your toddler to make sounds and movement to describe the story.
  • Help your child develop reading comprehension. Instead of reading the story straight through, ask the child open-ended questions about the story: "Why do you think Goldilocks ate Baby Bear's porridge?" or "What do you think will happen next?"
  • Children often want to listen to the same story again and again. This builds confidence and familiarity with words, and reinforces that stories are fun.
  • Try to find a consistent time and/or place to share books.

PRESCHOOLERS:

  • Offer a variety of books including counting books, alphabet books, and animal books.
  • Your preschooler may want to ‘read’ to you—that’s great! Let them read (or tell) the story.
  • Read or tell stories in the language you are most comfortable with. It doesn't have to be English!
  • Tell stories about your family and your culture.

 KINDERGARTNERS AND FIRST-GRADERS:

  • Choose rhyming texts. Rhymes emphasize the relationship between spelling and pronunciation.
  • Seek out books about things he likes, whether it's cartoon superheroes, sports, or pets.
  • Encourage him to read (and re-read) easy books aloud. This will familiarize him with words and word endings.
  • Don't interrupt if he mispronounces a word or spells it out incorrectly. Instead, wait until he finishes, then say, "Did that word make sense? Let's take another look." He may be able to glean a word's meaning from its context.
  • Don't stop reading to him. Even children who can already read on their own appreciate the chance to simply listen.
  • Allow your child to re-read favorite and familiar stories, or to hear you re-read them. Knowing a familiar book will help them notice more about the words on the page and they will start to recognize the patterns in new words and stories.
  • Set up a special place for books from the library or their own books.
  • Buy books as presents instead of toys.
jen March 16, 2011 at 04:21 PM
I am not a reader myself but I wanted my kids to be different. I started reading to them before bed trying to get them to relax, that never happened but it was ok. For me I love Dr. Suess books. The kids where given The Lorax, it was advanced to say the least, but they seemed to enjoy the pictures and I enjoyed laughing at myself trying to pronounce some of the words :) Soon Reiley would bring us books over and over to read. I started taking them to the library and checked out books. Yes my kids where enjoying to read. Then ALS happened! And watching someone else to read to them was not fun for me but alas I stumbled across a website that I was able to read to them again! http://disneydigitalbooks.go.com . There are over 600 books to choose from. When the kids can read we can do it together or alone. For now we choose look and listen. Though it is not MY voice it is something that we can do together. Even Jeremy enjoys a book from time to time.
Angela Morrey March 16, 2011 at 06:33 PM
Jen, Thank you for sharing that website. We will definately be checking it out. I'm so glad you are so determined to make your kids read, that even without your voice you have found a way. I think that will be something that sticks with the kids for the rest of their lives. My mom gave us some books that I used to read when I was younger. Now Abby and Zach are reading them, and they love the fact that it was mine when I was a little girl. Thanks for reading and - and be sure to comment on the Moms Talk today - very interesting topic!

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