Make Books Your Child’s Best Friend

Today’s children are busier than ever with constant bombardment from television, radio, computers, and video games on top of home, school and sport activities. Many are missing out on the simpler pleasures of life, like reading, and many parents drop the ball on teaching them that reading is a lifelong skill. If you are a new parent or parent-to-be, now is the time to introduce books and their importance. If you already have children, it’s never too late to start. And, if you have a child who just absolutely hates to read, this article is for you too. Here are 10 ways to instill a love of reading that I’ve seen work in my children’s lives.

1. Start reading to your child early. I started reading to my oldest child, now nearly 9, while she was in utero. The first book I read to her was “The Foot Book” by Dr. Seuss, a freebie I got in the mail. So, it was no surprise then when after her birth, she seemed to recognize the words in the story and would stop whatever she was doing to focus on me or my husband. Reading even seemed to calm her down. At age seven months, she was “reading” on her own, propping up a softcover book with her feet and hands while lying on her back. At age four, she was reading, and by first grade, she was reading at a middle school level. Today, she will read several books at once and some of these books are the size of “War and Peace.” I don’t mean to brag so much, but I am amazed at the progress she’s made and the power of one little book read to her at such an early age. For my other children, I have followed this same process and have seen similar results.

2. Let your child see you read. The clichÃ?© of “monkey see, monkey do” really does apply here. How can you expect your child to read and love it if she never sees you doing it? I am always reading something, whether it’s a newspaper, magazine, book, or the back of a cereal box and my kids copy what their mom is doing. If it’s age appropriate, show what it is you’re reading.

3. Read to your child, and have her read to you. Your early reader should read aloud to you so she can have pride in her progress, learn words and have special bonding time with you. It also presents an opportunity for you to detect potential reading problems. If you suspect your child has one and it’s not easily solved, you should consider having a professional evaluation done by a reading specialist. Having you read to her helps her understand nuances of dialogue, characterizations and pronunciations. You should continue to read to her even after she learns how to read, as well.

4. Let her choose what to readâÂ?¦within reason, of course. Ask her what she would like to read if she could choose anything at all, and then actually let her read that item. So what if it’s a comic book, a fashion magazine, or the sports section? It’s not the greatest of literature, but it will get her reading and that’s the most important goal.

5. Take her to the library. Where else can you go and get something about anything for free? Let her get a library card too. She’ll feel such pride when she checks out her first book. Take her to storytimes and special library events, all forms of free entertainment. Many libraries also have reader incentive programs. Our local library offers show or game tickets, gift certificates and other prizes for so many books read over an extended period.

6. Attend book fairs. If your child’s school partners with Scholastic Books, then there’s no better fair I can recommend. Scholastic offers a variety of books at reasonable prices and allows schools to earn free books. Our school’s teachers create wish lists, allowing students to purchase and dedicate books to their class.

7. Volunteer at your child’s school library. Yes, you will have to do grunt work like shelving books and checking materials in and out, but you’ll also get a bird’s eye view of what your child is reading in school. You’ll also be able to make recommendations to students that can lead to lively discussions. If possible, volunteer to read stories to the younger grades. These kids ask the most interesting questions and it’s great to see those light bulbs turn on when they understand a plot or a character’s motivation.

8. Give books as gifts. Let’s be honest. In six months’ time, will your child truly remember the toy or game that was all the rage at Christmas? Probably not. What she will most likely remember is her first book or her favorite book series. Books are memorable because they let you revisit them time and again. Each time, you can choose to insert yourself in the story, imagine an ending maybe the author didn’t choose, or notice something you didn’t see the first time.

9. Have your child write a story. A journal is a perfect place to start. After all, isn’t life one big story? It’s exhilarating to see your own words written down on paper or screen. Once she starts writing, she will improve both writing and reading skills and will see the correlation between the two. The best writers were readers first.
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0. Integrate reading into your child’s daily life. Use everyday situations to illustrate the importance of reading. Start with traffic signs. My kids knew what “S-T-O-P” was long before they learned to read. At the grocery store, point out words on signs and food labels. Read anything and everything with words on them.

Having your child read well will take what I call the three P’s – -practice, patience and perseverance – -both on your part and hers. If one method doesn’t work, try another. Soon, your child will realize that reading is essential to just about everything she does and will do for the rest of her life. Good luck and happy reading!

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