Wednesday, September 28, 2011

raising readers

I don't have to start this post convincing everyone of how important reading is, right? We all know that reading and writing are two skills that should never be undervalued. For success in business, you need to be able to communicate, professionally, to all sorts of audiences. Boring, boring, boring, I know. But it is true! You know it is. Raising readers is not as hard as it seems. Sure, you might think some people are just born with a reading gene and others just aren't. I don't think that's the case, though. Yeah, you might get lucky and your child might find their own way into the world of reading, with or without your help, but there are some things you can do to raise your very own reader. You don't have to look far to research and find out why and how much better readers do in school. Which brings me to a cool story.

On Wednesday, it was $3 Admission Day into the Kern County Fair. Overpriced, I know.  Anyway, the event that day drew lots and lots of people. In the early evening hours, around 6 or 7pm, there was a 20 minute line just to buy your ticket! Felt like the ghetto Disneyland. Some people kept looking at the little girl sitting on the curb, quietly reading her book. A few even pointed. Every now and then she would pick up her little head from the book and ask her mother a question, then proceed to read again. At the fair? With all the commotion and tomfoolery? I think it was pretty cool. Especially, because it was my daughter! I wasn't surprised. She reads everywhere. In the car, in her room, during recess sometimes, in class (at the wrong time), outside and anywhere else she feels the desire. Kind of reminds me of me. I remember getting in trouble because I hid a book on my lap during teaching time in class, on more than one occasion. So, how did I raise such a fervent reader?

My ideas will probably sound like tried-and-true familiar methods but that is because they work! Trust me on this one. I have two girls who adore books and another, at the tender age of 1, who is already crawling in bed with big sister and taking part in story time. She is even starting to sit through her own stories for a little bit longer at a time.

So, these are the tips:
  • Early exposure - Keep books around from day 1. Even tiny babies respond to the sound of your voice. Your baby is never too young to be engaged in hearing you read something, even if it is just for a few moments. You are exposing them to language, the basis of all reading.
  • Consistency - Read to your child every single day. Or at least almost every day. In our house, we can't get away with a day without reading unless there is some special circumstance that prohibits it, such as vacation, kids fall asleep before bedtime routine, or they fall asleep on the way home from somewhere late and night in the car. Even with the last circumstance, Emme often wakes up and asks for some kind of story. If it is just really too late, we hand her one of her picture books and tell her she can "read" to herself while she falls asleep. Other than those things, we read to our kids (or they read to themselves) every day. Emme is "spoiled" by also getting a story at EVERY nap, and she takes a nap every day.
  • Keep it fresh - Always try to offer new books or reading materials. Books can be found extremely cheap at second-hand stores, Wal Mart, on clearance shelves, yard sales, online, or even those scholastic book sales through your child's school. Not to mention, the library is FREE. Unless, you are like me and always end up paying late fees. Also, for older kids who can read solo, try subscribing to National Geographic or another interesting magazine that will hold their attention. I remember my dad subscribing me to Nickelodeon and Disney magazine and I loved getting new issues in the mail. Oh, and let's not forget my obsession with MAD magazine when I got a little older for the other two. Let them explore the various genres. If they like Art, buy them a book with lots of pictures about Art. If they like video games and are more visual, try graphic novels, I love those myself!
  • Make it Accessible -  Keep books down on the ground for everyone to reach. We keep the floor level stash limited to contain messes, but we switch them out every now and then.
  • Model it - Try to let your kids see you reading (even if it is just your trashy gossip magazine), or create a family reading time. My girls have witnessed me reading on a regular basis since birth. If you don't have time to read by yourself, still try to read with them so they get the message that it is important.
  • Internalize it - Help them understand that books contain ideas that we can talk about and relate to. Ask them questions about what they read and test their comprehension with simple conversation. It will make them think about what they are reading. 
I am sure there are many more details we can get into, but I think these are good basics for raising a reader and getting kids interested in books. 

On an even more personal note, I have to give my mom a huge shout-out for doing these things for my brother and I growing up. I have a terrible memory, but the few I do have from childhood are about crawling into her warm bed and reading Steinbeck and Hemingway at a very young age. I remember library trips and the excitement I always felt getting new books. Also, to my dad, who never denied me the opportunity on a bookstore mini shopping spree in my older childhood years and would even let me buy books by Stephen King and Clive Barker. (He didn't know how scary they were! All he knew is that they kept me reading). Thanks parents!

If anyone has any experiences with getting their kids to love reading, or cool stories to share- COMMENT AWAY! I'd love to hear from you!

 Look at all these books I bought this week for 30 cents each!!


  1. great post! our daughters would get along famously ;) mine begs to be taken to school early in the morning so she can return/check out new library books throughout the week rather than just once, and we are completely guilty of extending bedtime so she can finish "just one more page...."
    our elementary school does "One Book, One School" each year. it is a great program in which the entire student body - and their families - read the same book (a chapter or two a night; goal is to read together as a family). at the end, everyone gets together for a party at the school and reads the final chapter together. we love it!

  2. Thanks Katy! Wow, that reading event sounds awesome! You're lucky your child goes to a school that values reading so much and has a great program to promote reading! Thanks for sharing :)

  3. I can't stess the importance of reading enough!! I was read to @ a young age & read early. I've always loved books!! I read to my daughter in utero. She came out loving books :) Her vocabulary & comprehension is awesome! She is 14 months & "reads" to herself even though I start out reading to her. She has access to 2 bookshelves & is constantly pulling books down. I taught kindergarten while pregnant with her so she could hear me reading a lot! I'm pregnant with her brother now & teach 3rd grade so he's being read to as well! I'm always buying books through scholastic. The dollar books are great! I encourage my students to @ least buy the dollar book! I get books @ consignment sales also & never turn down a book from anyone! Family & friends give them as gifts for holidays. My home & classroom libraries are stocked!!!! Ok enough about my love for reading!!

  4. Thanks Stephanie! Your babies are lucky too! I think a lot of people underestimate the power it has. People have always asked me why Luciana is so smart and about her vocabulary too, and I always say its because of reading! Keep up the good work, mama!