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I freely admit that I have an addiction…to books. It’s been building over three decades now, from when I was a tiny child. That’s right, my parents were my first suppliers. They filled my room with books, listened to endless chattering about my favorite characters, and fueled my desire for more. My Mother is the model bibliophile with bookcases upon bookcases all over her home. Every book has it’s place and all is orderly, but the sheer number is enviable!
Deep within my soul…there is a bookshelf. Upon this bookshelf lives the titles that impacted my life in a deep, defining way. Books like Anne of Green Gables, which showed me what a life without parents would be like and taught me to appreciate the amazing family I had. Then there is The Princess Bride, a story for the ages and one that motivated me to find true love, not to settle for childhood infatuations (can’t say that was a lesson easily learned!). And even The Diary of Anne Frank, which opened my eyes to the suffering of others and encouraged me to defend the defenseless when I saw a need.
In my own home, I’ve endeavored to create a literature littered haven for my children. Each one has a bookshelf in their bedroom where they hoard their favorites for a nighttime fix. It’s soul-wrenching for me to be the one to pull the cord on their bedside lamp and end their visit to the explorations of the mind, but alas even children must subside to sleep. Don’t worry, my loves, with dawn comes the sun and a new day to fill with literary adventures!
Even when one of my little tutu-clad princesses pull all of the books out of the shelves they can reach, I am thrilled to see them touching the books. Letting that amazing knowledge absorb through their fingertips, learning by osmosis! I encourage their comfort with these amazing tools, so that when are old enough to discover the mind-bending glory held within, they embrace it willingly! Join the literary-minded world we live in, my loves! It will bring you a greater peace than any other you will ever know.
If you’ve just begun this process, you may be overwhelmed with the enormous book selections out there and feel hounded by advertisements in schools to encourage reading. We all know reading is fundamental to learning. It’s certainly one of the most important tools in your child’s education anyway. So, where to begin?
As an avid reader and admitted book addict, here are the tips that I have found the most helpful in my own home with my five kids:
Make Books Accessible
This might seem like a no-brainer, but really it’s not. It’s more than just having books their current reading level, a level higher to challenge them, AND a level lower for pleasure reading. On top of having a variety of books to choose from, the books should be located in the area with the greatest likelihood of use. If your child prefers to read in his/her room, that is the perfect spot for a bookcase/shelf. Some kids (like mine) prefer to to read in the main living area and in the car, so we have baskets of books in both places as well as a stockpile of books in a bookcase in the center of our home. This stockpile is regularly rotated with new books as old (destroyed) books are removed or outgrown.
Another point about accessibility is that of book ownership. Now, let me preface this by saying we are HUGE fans of our local library and quite regularly visit to load up on books. That said, book ownership is a vital factor in raising avid readers. For a child, owning books is equal to taking ownership of their education. By having books that belong only to them, you are establishing the important role that books have in your life as well as your child’s.
Follow the Child
Knowing what your child is interested in learning about is key to engaging them with books. Find the topic that your child can talk about endlessly, that is the starting point for following their interests. For example, my son Joseph can tell you an inordinate amount of information about dinosaurs. He’s been fascinated with these magnificent creatures for quite a while, so I’ve integrated plenty of nonfiction resources on dinosaurs into our home library. He needs no encouragement to pick these books up!
If your child is especially resistant to books, for whatever reason, my favorite way to engage them is to strew. Strewing is essentially intentional placement of books or materials where your child will find them. It’s truly allowing your child to make the decision and not enforcing or encouraging them to engage. I have found this is a great strategy with kids that have associated books with “school.”
Model Reading Yourself
Yes, even a bibliophile like me had to be reminded to pick up a book and get “caught” reading by my children. While my kids know that I adore books, I often avoided reading in front of them because I knew I would be too distracted to enjoy them. I read TO them every day, but modelling reading is the best advertisement for books! Your kids admire you and want to emulate you! If they see the value that you place on books, they are likely to modify their own perspective on books as well.
Think you’re too busy? As my Mom loves to point out, “You make time for what’s important.” If my goal of raising lifelong readers is important to me, I will make time to model reading. Even if that reading is out loud with a child in your lap! Take the time to read. As a matter of fact, reading with your child is even more important than them reading independently at EVERY age. Kids love to be read to and the bond between you and your child will extend to the books you read together.
Bibliophiles and book addicts aren’t born, they’re raised. Even for late starters, achieving literary bliss is still possible! So, make the leap and begin today! Fill your home with books, follow your child’s lead, and model reading to your child. Success is within reach, you just need to REALLY want it.