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Raising Little Readers

Turning story time into more than just a bedtime ritual.

As an avid reader and novelist, married to another writer and reader, the topic of books is serious business in our household. Needless to say, my daughter has quite an impressive collection of books even at her young age. Of all the qualities I wish I could pass on to her, a love of reading is up at the top of that list… but I know that just stocking up on books for her to gnaw on is not exactly the best way to go about this.

So how can you turn your toddler’s first curiosity about books into a lifetime hobby? While there’s no way to really brainwash them into believing books are better than TV, you can sure try to get them hooked on books today. 

As an article at Baby Center advises, “It’s never too early to steer your child toward books.” Of course, you should stick with books that are age-appropriate to be sure they’ll spark your little one’s interest (no Chaucer or Shakespeare for your toddler). Pushing too hard, too fast can actually cause your child to shy away from reading rather than to embrace it. Rather, here are some methods the experts recommend to cultivate a love of reading in your children.

Bonding & Rituals

Create a story time ritual with your little one as a way to share special time together. Make it a bedtime tradition, or something you do at the end of playtime to wind them down. Sit together and make the experience interactive for your toddler, pointing to pictures and naming animals or doing the noises for them. Be silly and make your child laugh; all those positive associations will create a bond between you both and between your child and books.

Story time should be about connecting together and giving your tot undivided attention. Don’t worry about reading all the words on the page. Sometimes I let my daughter hold the book and “read” to me, while we talk about the pictures on the page. She loves to do this first, then hand it to me to read all the way through from the beginning. Our routine is our own; create one between you and your child.

Choose Wisely

As I mentioned earlier, sticking to the right books can do a lot for hooking young readers. Board books, bathtub books, and pop-up books are the name of the game for toddlers. Anything with paper pages is fun to read and look at, but they get ruined too quickly by tiny, fast-moving hands. This way, we just let her hold the book and we don’t worry that it will get ripped or eaten. Her toddler books can hold up to her, thank goodness.

Take the Back Seat

In my routine with my daughter, I often let her be in charge of what we’re reading, where we’re sitting, and what pages we look at first. I give her the ability to express her interests and I follow them. If she’s more interested in a book we aren’t reading, she’s not going to pay attention. If she wants to sit on the bed, not the floor, we just move. As soon as she’s comfortable and her interests are clearly being addressed by me, she settles in and enjoys the read. If you find your toddler struggling to sit still, see if there is something that will more greatly capture his interest and allow him to show it to you.

It’s a Group Thing

Another way to enjoy reading is to share it with other children as a group activity. Host a reading time at your home for friends and their children, where you share snacks and craft projects after reading together. You might also want to pay attention to local children’s readings in the area, such as those held at  and  libraries every week.

Our nearby  is another great place to connect with kids for themed story time readings every week. Join Mr. Ed for a fun gathering twice weekly, just check the store calendar of events for more information on what’s coming up this month.

When reading becomes part of your everyday life, your children will take notice. Create an environment where books are always present, always being read, and always available to explore and your child’s imagination will do the rest. And who knows? Maybe in the process, you’ll discover your own love of reading too.

Rivka Kawano November 15, 2011 at 09:54 PM
Another idea is to use activities that relate to the book you just read to help them connect themes and ideas. Check out www.BeautifulBooksforChildren.com for ideas from one mom to another! :-)
Alexandra Goldman Morrill November 16, 2011 at 08:41 PM
Hi Stephanie, thank you for your article on raising little readers. The importance of introducing our children to books at an early age cannot be underestimated. Check out http://read-learn-grow.blogspot.com/ for more tips on growing a life-long love of learning.

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