I have always enjoyed words, but I would say I became a voracious reader after our second miscarriage. During that time of recovery, books were medicinal - a welcome distraction from grief. And then came 3 children and my life became very rich but very small. There were days when I didn't leave our house and books became a way to travel and explore and step into a different life. As my kids grew, books became opportunities for snuggles and then teaching tools and then ways to show them the big, wide, world. So, I guess I started devouring beautiful, meaningful books about a decade ago, and I haven't stopped since!
Because reading is something I value, I wanted our home to be a place that nurtured the love of reading in our kids. For those of you who also want to raise readers, here are a few tips that have served us well over the years:
Gather and display quality, age-appropriate literature. Not all books are great. Make sure you are gathering books with beautiful language, quality illustrations and worthwhile content. The easiest way to do this is to pre-order books from your library. There are a host of book lists online or from websites like www.readaloudrevival.org. I have also enjoyed the suggestions found in books like Honey for a Child's Heart, Give Your Child the World and Read for the Heart. Once you have ordered and picked up your huge stack of books from the library, scatter them (a few at a time) in strategic locations around your home. For example, I usually display a few books (covers facing out) on our fireplace and coffee table because my kids will almost always sit down and read one or two first thing in the morning. Don't forget to change the books out every couple of days to keep it fresh! (Our current jam is non-fiction narratives!)
Build in margin for reading. This is important. You can gather all of the great books and scatter them around your house but if your kids aren't ever home with time to enjoy them, then its all for naught. Because we home school we have more relaxed mornings for reading and we also have quiet time every afternoon from 2-3:30. During this time the kids can play quietly in their room but they almost always choose to read. (This is the time when I grab a cup of coffee and read as well!) We also do bedtime at 8:30pm which is a little earlier than some of the kids' friends go to bed, but we allow our kids to read as late as they want. In this way, bedtime becomes a built-in quiet time for snuggling up with a great book. If you want to know more about how to schedule a quiet time into your routine you can click here.
Read aloud as a family. I know many of you read to your kids before bed. I think that's wonderful but that doesn't work well for our family. My husband and I prefer to keep the bedtime routine quick and easy because we are usually pretty wiped out by that time of day. I prefer to read to the kids while they are eating. Any meal or snack will do. I started keeping track of the chapter books we've read aloud together and we are currently reading #91. (I will probably post a list of all the great books we have enjoyed once we reach 100 so stay tuned for that!) The wonderful thing about reading together is that you meet the same characters and go on the same adventures and develop the same inside jokes. For example, we have a sign hanging in the kids' bathroom that says, "Stop acting like Hermon Huxley!" If you've read The Vanderbeekers, then maybe you'll know the appropriate response is, "How dare you!"
Lastly, we pay our kids to read novels that we have selected - It is our form of allowance. Basically, they do chores for free but they do extra reading for money. Just this morning my middle son and I discussed Where the Red Fern Grows, the book he finished reading last night. I love that. I love that my kids are growing up story-rich. Their heads and hearts will be full of adventures, virtuous characters, lessons gently learned and compassion that comes from walking in someone else's shoes. And I love that no matter your budget, if you live near a library, you can give your kids the world.