How to raise a child who is interested in reading, or better yet, loves books? Here are some ideas for how to get started from an early age!
As does every parent, I have certain hopes for my son, the biggest one being for his health and safety. There is also the hope that he will grow into a happy and kind man. After these two, I have just one more. I sure hope that he will love reading books!
My reasoning behind this desire is fairly selfish. I love reading, and I find interactions rather dull if I cannot make allusions to War and Peace or at least Harry Potter. But I have some research to back up my desires here. Numerous studies show that reading is beneficial for both children and adults. It improves memory, vocabulary, concentration and imagination, not to mention all the knowledge one can get from books. If you need more reasons, please, take a look at this extensive list: 10 Reasons to Read to Your Child by Wildflower Ramblings. The bottom line is, I want to share that with my son in the hopes that it will open for him a world as wonderful and shimmering as it did for me. Middle Earth? Neverland? The Yorkshire dales of the famous vet James Herriot? The balls and dinners of Jane Austen? Just grab a book, and let’s go on an adventure!
My son is only starting his journey into the world of literature, but his delight at reading books brings me joy. In this article I would like to share some tips that I found helpful.
1. Start reading books early.
Some parents start reading to their children as soon as they can hear, which is around the 16th week gestational age. Did you? My husband read The Hobbit to my belly on occasion. I wonder if it was the reason why Budster was not very fond of board books at first… The level of The Hobbit is hard to beat!
When Budster was born, we started reading to him and were a little taken aback by his lack of interest. Here we were, shelves full of board books, and our ten-day-old son completely ignored them!
I became confident that Budster was listening to books when he was around six months old, and he chose his first favourite one when he was eight months old. It was We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, which he tugged around everywhere. However, even before that I had been trying to read to him a couple of books every day, whether he seemed interested or not. Sometimes he would play, and I would sit next to him and read. As sounds started turning into recognizable words in his head, he paid more and more attention to my reading.
Are you wondering what books to choose for the first year? Check this list of first books that were popular in our house during the first year, as well as the list of books to read to toddlers who want to hear it again and again.
2. Make books visible and accessible.
Having lower shelves in your bookcases dedicated to children’s books invites children to come and read them whenever they feel like it. It is a great start.
However, most picture books are fairly thin, and if you line them on a shelf, you will have difficulty reading their titles and distinguishing one book from another. Babies and toddlers will have to really struggle to find their favourite book there. Therefore, other options for displaying those first books might be preferable. Books need to attract attention, calling for children to pick them up and look through them… for an hour or two.
1. Mamma. Papa. Bubba. 2. Fun at Home with Kids 3. Classy Clutter 4. No Time for Flash Cards
In our house, children’s books are simply everywhere. There is a basket next to Budster’s bed, and there is a basket in his play area. You can use baskets too, or you can make these adorable book crates from No Time for Flash Cards. If your children are old enough, they can help!
The baskets and crates are great for keeping quite a few books. We usually put about twenty or twenty five books in our baskets, so there is a choice of bedtime stories, as sometimes we go through books after book, snuggling on Budster’s bed. When I want to attract my son’s attention to particular books, I like using the spice racks from Ikea, described by Mamma. Papa. Bubba. You can also make book shelf-ledges from scratch, following the tutorial by Classy Clutter.
If you would like more ideas on how to display books, B-Inspired Mama has a selection of inspiring photos with tutorials: DIY Wall Book Display + 12 More Kid’s Book Storage Ideas.
3. Organize a cozy reading place
Once you set up a book display, think about the place where you and your children will sit down and read. It should be comfortable, pleasant and inspiring, in other words, a place where you all will yearn to spend time every day. We often read, cuddling on a bed, before Budster goes for his naps and when he wakes up. Other times we read wherever he finds us with a book in his outstretched arms, but most often we sit down on a lamb skin in his play corner.
When I visit friends, I often stop at their book shelves, and I like having a peak inside of other families’ book nooks.
1. Mamma. Papa. Bubba 2. The Imagination Tree 3. Childhood 101 4. Teach Mama
4. Allow your children to explore books freely
Children’s books – colourful, sturdy, printed on nice thick paper – are without denying, expensive. So it might be disheartening to see them being torn in baby’s attempt to turn pages. However, we need to remember that at the very moment little hands grab the book, reading starts.
I do not advocate letting children ruin books. Stay next to them, wipe their hands, let them handle only board books or get a bunch of used ones for exploring while they are babies, remind them to be careful when they are older. But it is important to let them play with books when they want to. They need to feel that books are fun, and not to associate them with the word “no”.
At seven months, my son liked very much turning pages in books. He did not look at the pictures, but the mechanism of turning pages fascinated him, and once he spent about forty minutes sitting on the floor with a book and going back and forth through its pages.
Some books are made to be played with: to touch, to push buttons, to lift flaps. Books as a Tactile Experience for Babies and Toddlers provides a list of our favourite books with sensory elements, while No Twiddle Twaddle has created a great collection of books to play with.
The article Board Books for Babies and Toddlers by Homegrown Friends will help you choose board books wisely, and if you want to know about 25 must-have books for babies, the Jenny Evolution created a list. Even sturdier than board books are the series of books called Indestructibles: you can read a review of them by The Freckled Homeschooler.
So get sturdy books and let children play with them until they are sure that books are the best toys.
5. Offer a wide variety of books
If your child does not seem interested in some books, he might be not old enough for them or cannot relate to the story. When Budster was born, we had – let’s say – a hundred books that we wanted to read with him in the years to come. Over the first year, he chose about ten that he liked. But by the time he was a year and a half, the number grew to about seventy. The majority of books that are left will probably interest him in the next year, but there were a few that he simply did not like.
So, try different books! For a variety, visit a library and check these long lists of family favourites. So many of these titles are our best friends right now.
6. Respond to your child’s interests with books
This tip works well for children of all ages. When I see an interest to something new arising, I try to find books that will include new information relevant to this interest. Lately, Budster has suddenly got fascinated with vehicles. It was a surprise to me because I seldom point them out to him. So our two new favourite books are Goodnight Goodnight Construction Site (we also made a puzzle from the dustcover of this book!) and Freddie Fixer Builds a Car. I joined Budster in learning a few interesting things from those books: the names of all the machines at a construction site from the first one and the main assemblies of a car from the second.
Budster would certainly be impressed by this list of transportation-themed books by Ready-Set-Read. Good Long Road has a series of posts on books about things that go, starting with the trained-themed books.
7. Invite books into your everyday life
Some people say that reading is like breathing. While reading does not normally seem to be as essential for staying alive, I appreciate this sentiment. Making reading a natural part of life is a certain way to ensure that your child will always surround himself with books.
We usually have a stack of books in the car. While travelling, we also like to listen to the audiobooks. When our son was little, we recorded a few short stories ourselves. When he grew up, he learned how to turn audiobooks for himself, and now he listens to them all the time. Here is the list of his fifty favourite audiobooks!
1. Enchanted Homeschooling mother. 2. Learn with Play at Home 3. No Time for Flash Cards
We have a couple of especially sturdy books by the dinner table. When Budster finishes eating before we do, he will often entertain himself with a book or two. This fantastic idea of having a family book-themed dinner, offered by Enchanted Homeschooling Mother, sounds like something we all could enjoy in the future.
Then, of course, we always read books before it is time for him to go to bed. We usually read one or two when he wakes up too. He has come to anticipate this part of the day, and chooses the books he wants in packs. Here is a long list of splendid bedtime books by No Time for Flash Cards.
8. Play book-based games
Children enjoy books they can relate too. The appearance of a younger sibling might spark an interest in stories about brothers and sisters, while a trip to the zoo can encourage reading about animals. However, if the book describes a situation your child is not yet familiar with, it might be helpful to play through it together. We have recently built zoo cages out of Lego blocks and, putting animals into them, went through the story of Goodnight, Gorilla.
Here are more ideas on how to turn a book into an engaging game:
- Fairy-Tale Storytelling Basket by The Imagination Tree
- Goodnight Animals Matching Game by Minne Mama
- Dr. Seuss Books and Games that Encourage Creativity by KC Adventures
- Extension Activities for “The Mitten” by Jan Brett by The Preschool Toolbox
- Cave Craft for Forest Theme by Fantastic Fun and Learning
9. Draw and paint books
Books inspire creativity, and making art after reading a book makes it memorable. I remember making illustrations for my favourite books. It helped me emphasize with the characters and understand the story lines better. So if your child likes the book How to Catch a Star by Oliver Jeffers, why not try this art project from Buggy and Buddy?
10. Stage your child’s favourite books
I find theatrical experiments very entertaining both for adults and children. Having a home theatre is good way to give a new dimension to the favourite stories. You can start with puppet shows and act as a director while your child is small, involving him into the process of making puppets, decorations and plays later.
If you want to make a puppet theatre from scratch, check our tutorials – we have a simple printable puppet theatre and a sturdy wooden one! Once it is done, start having fun with it. We started with the Little Red Riding Hood story, having a shadow play one evening. Let’s Play Music made a set of adorable Little Red Riding Hood characters for a daytime puppet show – I like their multi-media look.
1. Adventure in a Box 2. Let’s Play Music 3. Kitchen Counter Chronicles 4. Small Potatoes
Kitchen Counter Chronicles showed how to make moving shadow puppets. They were inspired by reading Dr. Seuss’ book Shape of Me and Other Stuff! If you prefer glove puppets, check this beautiful tutorial by Small Potatoes on how to turn your socks into the cutest soft puppets for your theatre.
11. Make books
When Budster turned one, I made the layout of a photobook, filled with his photographs. I planned it as a gift for his grandmothers, both of whom live too far to visit him often and see his everyday antics. At the last minute, I ordered a copy for us as well. When Budster found this book a couple of months ago, it immediately became his favourite. He brings it to me, climbs onto my lap and seriously listens, as I tell him the same story, “Once there was Mommy and Daddy, and they wanted to have a little boy…”
Now that he is older, he loves making books from a few sheets of paper stapled together. I also made a variety of printable book templates for him to fill – like this nature journal or this Book About Me.
1. Craftulate 2. Mamma. Papa. Bubba 3. And Next Comes L 4. Childhood 101
Books with photos bring a great delight to children when they recognize themselves, relatives and friends. I love this witty That’s Not My Gracen Photo Book by Mamma. Papa. Bubba. Childhood 101 shows how to make a cloth photobook. That will be a book that is certain to live a long time.
12. …Read too!
That will be the last tip, but it is as important as the first one. Show children that reading is fun by your own example. What was the last book you have read and enjoyed?