Kindness, of course, is a quality we are still constantly working on teaching - it's a lifestyle, not a simple one off lesson. Love of learning, however - I think we are well on our way to Cole and Chase being lifetime learners. And by far, the best and most encompassing way to instill a love of learning is through a love of reading. Here's some great tips for how to raise readers:
- Start early. Even earlier than you think you should. Kids are made readers on the laps of their parents. I started reading to both my boys the day I brought them home after their birth. If you begin early on, you are fostering an attention span for books, as well as the cozy, warm feeling of being snuggled with Mom or Dad and having some undivided, one-on-one attention. Even before babies can understand words or language, they can hear expression and tone changes which build their language development. This also applies to chapter books - just because a book is considered reading level second grade, doesn't mean your four year old won't pick up some extended vocabulary.
- Don't push it. It's so easy if you want your kids to be readers to force them to sit down and quietly listen. But kids will balk if you don't make it fun. Chase was absolutely NOT interested in reading for the first year or so of his life, which was far different from my experience with Cole. I simple read books to Cole often around him, read aloud from books while he was busy playing, and offered him books to read frequently, without pushing. That patience has paid off, because now he is really interested in books and will climb into my lap to read several times a day.
- But do encourage reading and books. Offer frequently to read if your child is in between activities. Make it a daily routine to read before each nap and bedtime. Read from chapter books while your kids are eating lunch. Provide audio books as an alternative to TV.
- Read right. When reading a book, read the author and illustrator and discuss who they are. Cole has learned many authors and illustrators this way, and we can compare and contrast our favorites and why, as well as find more books at the library by his favorites. Read with appropriate vocal and facial expression. The more interesting you make the words and sentences, the more likely your child will want to listen.
- Make books accessible. We have two large bookcases with books in the playroom, but since kids respond really well to seeing the front covers of books, we also have three baskets in our living room which we rotate books through every couple of weeks. Cole has books in his room, in the bathroom next to the potty, and in several spots in Chase's room. Both boys also have books next to (or IN, in Chase's case) their beds, so they can read before and after sleeping. That way, they are never far from a book.
- Be patient. Sometimes, kids want to read the same book over and over and over... and OVER again. Sometimes they choose books that are the WORST to read (Berenstein Bears, anyone?). Sometimes they want to read seventeen books and all you want to do is unload the dishwasher. Sometimes, they don't want to read. In every single scenario, the important thing is to be patient and remember the end goal of fostering a love of learning and reading over a lifetime.
- Visit the library and bookstore - frequently! And make it a fun experience. We visit our local library about once a week to check out new books and play. I always have a few books on hold that I chose for us to read, but Cole always fills up his library bag with books he chooses as well. Be sure to build a relationship with the librarian as well - they are a treasure trove of book knowledge your child will someday appreciate!
- Find other ways to promote literacy. The best way to raise a reader is not just to raise a kid who reads, or even who reads well. The most important aspect is literacy - a LOVE of reading. Reading should never be a chore or a struggle, it should always be fun. So even if your child wants to read comic books or magazines instead of books, let them. Chris isn't much of a book reader, but he loves reading football blogs - awesome. Reading is reading, it doesn't matter the content.