Reading is SO important in our house. When I was pregnant with Piper one of the things I was so excited about was building her library, a mix of books I loved as a child and newer titles that I’d been eying for years thinking “one day I can’t wait to read that to my child”. I remember the first year or so Piper really wasn’t into books and I felt so discouraged, it wasn’t until she was 1 that she really started getting into her books, looking at them independently and listening to us read them. Now – she’s quite obsessed with reading and I’ll often find her reading on her own. Trips to the library are one of our favorite activities, too! Today Janssen Bradshaw, co-founder of the adorable rain boot line London Littles who also happens to be passionate about reading and have a graduate degree in Library & Information Sciences is sharing her tips for reading with your kids!
Try different reading spots.
This is one of the easiest ways to make reading feel different and fun. I love lying on the floor next to my baby and holding the book above her so we can both see it (until my little weak arms give out from the weight of Goodnight Moon). And there’s something special about snuggling up in bed with all my girls and a pile of picture books or a great chapter book. Pro Tip: Books you’ve read a thousand times feel new and exciting when you take them to the playground.
Don’t worry about finishing the book.
There’s something that feels so wrong about giving up on a book. It feels like you’re teaching your child to be a quitter. But slogging through a book you hate just makes you NOT want to read. If your toddler loses interest in a picture book or your elementary-school kid can’t keep up with a chapter book, ditch it and try something new. The goal is to help your child develop a love of reading, not dread getting stuck in a book you won’t let them give up on. Kids love repetition so it’s nice to keep cycling through the books they love (and hey, it’s a plus when you can read something with your eyes closed). Be sure to grab a stack of NEW books to rotate in with those old favorites so they get used to trying new books and so you have a bigger repertoire of favorites! Pro Tip: Nothing makes kids feel like readers like seeing books they recognize at the bookstore, library or classroom, so the more books you expose them to, the more likely they are to see books they’re familiar with in different places.
Keep books accessible.
Keep a basket of library books next to the couch and a bookshelf in their bedroom or playroom and a couple of books in the car to look at during a drive.You’ll be amazed how often they pick them up when they can grab them on their own. When I was in grad school, my children’s literature professor kept a massive closet of picture books available to our class. We were like little kindergartners, gathering around to look at the new titles each week and showing each other what we’d found.
If you’re reading a chapter book, let your kids do something with their hands while they listen.
Pull out some Legos or Play-Doh or watercolors…and they’ll probably listen to you read aloud until your voice goes out.
Don’t rush into older books too soon.
It’s so tempting to jump into chapter books as soon as possible (I love a good chapter book, so I’m right there with you). But picture books have so much great vocabulary and wide range of topics — you’ll want to savor those as long as you can. And even as they do graduate to older books, keep picture books in the mix!
Read when they’re in a good mood.
When everyone is feeling pleasant and happy, it’s a great time to transfer those good feelings into a love of reading. (On the flip side, when they’re grumpy and tired, it can be a nice time to let them flop onto the couch and listen to you read, especially old favorites).
Read aloud even after they can read to themselves.
My oldest daughter is a very strong reader, but she still loves to listen to me read chapter books aloud to her. She is just as excited to read new picture books as her younger siblings are, and I love the opportunity to spend quality time with her and strengthen our relationship. Even when they don’t NEED you to read aloud to them, they really do need you to keep reading aloud. When I was a school librarian, my fourth and fifth grade classes loved having a chapter of a new book read aloud to them just as much as the first and second graders did.
Image by Lauren Swann