The greatest gift is a passion for reading. It is cheap, it consoles, it distracts, it excites, it gives you knowledge of the world and experience of a wide kind. It is a moral illumination. – Elizabeth Hardwick
If you’ve read many of my posts it’s probably already clear that I feel blessed by a passion for reading. I’m not exactly sure where it comes from… my Dad seems to have dyslexia (though it wasn’t ‘diagnosed’ in his day) and my Mom always seemed to have a novel of some sort going… but she never appeared to have the sheer joy (better word might be ‘obsessiveness’) that I found, and find, around reading.
That said… it makes me wonder if a passion for reading is a gift we can give another… or is it merely a ‘gift from the gods’, luck of the draw, so to speak? I simply don’t know. But here’s something I do know for sure…
When your child expresses an interest in reading, no matter how slight, do everything you can to nurture that interest! Fanning that spark might feed your child’s heart, mind and soul for a lifetime.
In support of that I offer the following 5 ways to nurture a love of reading:
1) Read aloud to them from the moment you conceive. And don’t be lazy about it… really play with it. Read it like you’re doing an old-time radio program… highs and lows, fast and slow. Add a few sound effects. My oldest was just a few months old when I was taking a course in abnormal psychology. Pretty dry textbook, but I was reading it with a relish that I’m sure contributed to my acing the course. (Quite a feat as I was also trying to refrain from letting that material sit in my mind potentially causing unneeded worry over the desired ‘healthy’ development of my baby boy!)
2) Talk with your child about how great it is to read. Even when they are just learning to talk… you can talk with/at them about what makes reading valuable for you…
“See this menu? I can read all the words so I know just how many choices of food I have! What would you like?” And then when they point to a picture on that menu, show them the words that describe what the image is depicting.
“Look at that sign. Boy I’m sure glad I know that S-T-O-P spells stop so I know I should stop the car here!”
“Oooo… you know what I just read in this newspaper? There is going to be an Art Fair at the Park tomorrow! I’m so glad I read about it so we don’t miss it!”
In other words, I’m not saying you need to sit down and give them a lecture and list of all the ways reading is valuable. Just get in the habit of highlighting it during the course of a regular day.
3) Bring a storybook story into their play. This is a fun way to nurture a love of reading… it’s about taking on the life of the storybook characters for a bit of imaginary play. Whether you’re encouraging a preschooler/toddler to be the Cow that went Oink or providing props for a school-age group of Boxcar Children.
4) Make regular trips to your local library. If you haven’t been to a library in a while you just might be amazed at the changes… and the many options available for you and your child. This is an outing that will be fun and educational in itself. And I encourage you to select books from a variety of areas within the library.
Of course your kids will want to seek out and spend some time in the Children’s area of the library… where they are likely to discover a book or two that they want to bring home. Also take some time with them in other areas of the library… look for cookbooks and check out a Kids Cookbook so they can trying some cooking at home. Look for some books of plays for kids and invite your kids and their friends to find a script they like and put on a show for you. Get the drift… discover areas of the library that you’ve never even explored and have an adventure.
5) Make time for your own reading. I hear so many parents say they don’t read because they don’t have time to read. That’s an excuse that doesn’t really hold much water. The real truth is we all do some kind of reading every day (even if it’s only a menu). But, if you’ve convinced yourself you don’t care for reading for pleasure… then save some of your ‘work’ reading for home. Setting up a schedule of at least 15 minutes a day for reading (to yourself, for yourself, by yourself), for the whole family, is a gift you will not regret giving. Reading to kids is one thing… modeling how to enjoy reading to themselves provides even greater dividends.