8 Tried-and-Tested Ways To Raise Book-Lovers.
My oldest kids (ages 5, 7 and 9) have evolved into voracious readers.
For example, Julie and I just took them on a 3 day holiday. Other than beach-going, their recreational preference was reading. Eli and Fynn clocked in hours everyday in pure reading pleasure. Ivy, who can’t yet read, nonetheless flipped through picture book after picture book, especially interactive ones like Where’s Wally?
Julie and I feel there’s so many areas where we’re far from being on top of our kids’ development. But in at least this area, we can high-five each other. For good reason: Kids who love books tend to:
- exercise their brains.
- improve their concentration.
- learn about the world around them.
- enhance their vocab and language skills.
- develop their imagination.
- cultivate empathy.
- have more fun.
- have one more way to bond with others.
- do better academically.
- keep on reading their whole lives.
I’ve been trying to figure out if there was anything Julie and I did to be so lucky.
As I reflect, I can think of 8 things that likely helped.
Many of them we stumbled upon without realizing how well they would work. If you’re interested in stimulating or strengthening a reading habit in your kids, maybe you can try some of them.
1. Books are presents.
Years ago Julie wrote a blog on affluenza and how we infect our kids with it by heaping them up with tons of toys every birthday and Christmas. (After the last set of birthdays I suggest we need to read her blog again!)
One thing she wrote that has helped us at times is that we parents should give our kids just 3 things on Christmas: something to play with (a toy), something to wear (clothing) and something to read (a book). One benefit of this approach has been that books are valued alongside toys.
That’s why, on Black Friday, I bought one third of my kid’s Christmas presents from a local bookshop at half price.
2. Books are rewards.
When we try incentivize our children to work on a better behaviour or attitude, or on some new skill, we sometimes say, “If you get this right, I will buy you a ….”
Well, next time you use those words finish it with, “ … any book you want.” The fact that you are rewarding them with books will boost their perceived value.
3. Books are everywhere.
I have an entire wall of books. They lie about in almost every room. It communicates to my kids that books are a part of life.
(On a side sort-of-humorous note, my twins once pulled each other’s dirty nappies off, and smeared an entire shelf of my books with their production. The only recompense was that they also painted on chocolate moustaches – their odour-agonized faces was all the punishment they needed.)
4. Parents are readers.
With kids we have far less time to do so, but still Julie and I love reading.
In fact, research reveals that just growing up in a home with lots of books (even if you don’t read them) leads to improved academic and career outcomes.
We do so in front of our kids, communicating that this is what people do. Luckily, I’ve learnt (it took some time) to read lying on a couch right in the midst of them playing. This way they don’t resent reading as something that takes their parents away from them.
5. Night time is story time.
Most nights, we stimulate our children’s imagination for a few minutes by reading some book to them, or making up stories.
Stories are addictive. As humans, we tend to have unlimited appetite for them. (Just look at the way we as adults get hooked on series).
By associating bed time with story time, and by getting them hooked on stories and books, we have found that they start to flip through books themselves, especially on those nights when we just can’t do story-time with them.
6. Golden hour is book time.
Last December on a holiday, for the first time, we introduced our kids to a 1 hour golden hour straight after lunch. Everyone needed to go to their rooms. No one was allowed to talk, not even mommy and daddy. You could sleep, or read, or draw, or all three. Most days they would read.
7. Screen time is minimized.
Like most parents, we got suckered into letting our children be little iPad addicts. We mitigated against this by downloading primarily educational apps.
Also, like most parents, we let our kids watch TV shows – and absolutely savoured the space this gave us as parents to breathe.
But I noticed one major draw-back. In the same way a kid doesn’t eat their supper because they had their appetite abated by a chocolate beforehand, we found that screen-time undermined their hunger for books.
As our kids get older, we will have to rethink this, but we decided to cold-turkey our kids from their iPad-fixation. It was hard for them for a few weeks. Until Eli came home one day and told us that his teacher congratulated him for being the only kid in his class who did not need an iPad to be happy. He thanked us for the very thing that he had previously begged us not to do.
What also helped is promising Eli and Fynn a 6 day binge soon enough when they can each use the iPad for an hour a day.
As for TV, we’ve tried to cut that down as much as possible, but sheez it’s enticing to let them watch. Lately, instead of letting them watch TV shows in the late afternoon, we’ve blasted dance music in our lounge, and this has provided entertainment for them, and a little space for Julie and I. As for Friday family pizza and video night – that’s here to stay!
8. Mommy-dates / dad-times happen at libraries and bookshops.
Associating books with closeness to a parent is about the best way to get kids hooked on books psychologically.
That’s why, about 10 times in the last few months as part of ‘dad-time’, after taking a child somewhere for a drink of their choice, I’ve then taken them with me to the Exclusive Bookshop up the road.
My instructions are simple.
‘Eli / Fynn / Ivy, find a book, read it next to me without hurting it, then when you’re bored, take it back where you found it, and get another book.’ I did the same. Not once did my kids say, ‘Can we go now?’ Each time I had to pull them away.
Also, Julie for years has taken the kids to libraries. The reason Fynn read so much in the last 3 days, is that he and Julie selected 3 holiday books.
Enjoy spreading a passion for reading.
Also published on Medium.