Thursday, October 11, 2012

Reading to my kids

I didn't used to feel comfortable reading to kids. I really think until you do it a lot, like every day, you won't be comfortable with it. You might feel silly making the voices or doing the motions. But if you put yourself out there, you'll find out how much more the story (and the time spent together) means to kids when you really get into it.
One of our favorites right now.
Perfect for Halloween! 

I love reading to my kids now. We have been very successful in making story time a solid part of our family time together. Natalie loves to read, and Jack is getting there. When I bring home a book from the library, it's like I just brought in a plate of cupcakes. "I brought some new books from the library!" "You did?! Let me see them!" I'm so proud of my kids for so many reasons, but I'm extremely happy that we've been able to impart our love of reading to them.

If you haven't started story time in your house, carpe diem folks! Below are some tips to get you started. If you're getting stuck on finding titles that interest you (and your kids), you might want to check out the Book List page on this blog (find it under My Pages at the top right).
  • Get a library card. You never know which books are going to strike a chord with your kids. A library card gives you access to thousands of books all for free. If any of them end up being really popular, you can avoid overdue fines by buying those for your home library.
  • Just do it. You might have to force yourself to do story time sometimes, especially in the beginning. You might feel like your child isn't getting a lot out of it and doesn't really enjoy it. Keep trying. When you find a book they like, it will change.
  • Let them choose. If your child has attached himself to one book in particular, read it every night. Read it multiple times a night. Read anything he wants (that is content-appropriate), and don't underestimate his comprehension level.
  • Pay attention, and play to her interests. If she's dressing up as a pirate all the time and pretending to search for buried treasure in the backyard... if all of her art projects turn into "treasure maps", go to the library and ask the librarian to suggest some good pirate books.
  • Use books to introduce new ideas. Are you going on vacation to the beach? Find some books about beachy things, plane trips (if you're flying there), how to pack for vacation, and even beach safety. Bring home anything (if you have a library card, it's free!). Out of all the books you pick, the one your child attaches to might be the last one you'd expect.
  • Read to yourself, too. And let your child catch you reading. Read as often as possible. Read a magazine while she's playing in the pediatrician's waiting room. Take a lawn chair out and read a book while he's playing in the sand box. Read at soccer practice, read the paper in the morning. Get books for you when you go to the library. Talk about books with your friends and family. Your child will notice. Kids should see both parents reading, by the way. If more little boys saw their fathers reading, it might be easier to get them interested in books.
  • Leave books laying around. The toys are in toy boxes so kids can easily pull out what they want to play with. Don't put books on a high shelf. Invest in some board books of your own that kids can treat like toys: chew on them, put them in backpacks or purses or play shopping carts, build towers with them, make tents with them. The more accessible books are, the more inclined kids are to be interested in reading. Even a low bookshelf may inhibit exploration. Remember that kids can't read (duh right?) so how will they become interested (or even recognize) a book if all they can see is a quarter inch spine?
  • Create an environment. Especially if you're trying to get kids into reading, make story time a special time. Sit on the floor with her, pull her into your lap, get a fuzzy blanket and a stuffed animal friend. Even pull her into your bed. Don't read in front of the TV while the game's on, and you're more distracted than present. Your child will notice. She'll ask questions or make inferences or point out something in the book, and your job is to make sure you're interacting with the book with her.
  • Get into it. Do voices, make faces. The story teller can make or break a book. But don't give up if you're not comfortable with it yet. You'll get there. And when you do, you'll enjoy it as much as we do.