(Jenn is a guest blogger from Sweet T Makes Three.)
Every mom hopes to cultivate a love for reading in her children. After all, “readers are leaders,” right? We could argue the nature/nurture debate when it comes to who loves to read and who doesn’t, but truth be told both are a determining factor. Since you can’t change genetics, here are a few great ways to nurture a love for books starting when your children are young.
1. Make books available – One thing both sides of the nature/nurture debate can agree on is that books must be accessible to the child. Make yourself available too. Those books aren’t going to read themselves!
2. Take them to the library – If your local library allows it (our does) get your child his own library card. Let them choose the books he wants to take home with him. Check into you library’s preschool story times, puppet shows, and summer reading programs. Make the library a place they look forward to visiting.
3. Teach them respect for books – This one really starts in infancy. Never allow your child to throw books, tear pages, or mark in anything but a coloring book. You’ll be glad you did when you come home with a stack of library books and don’t have to worry about your toddler destroying them before they can be returned.
4. Take them to the bookstore – There’s so much more at bookstores than just books! Your child’s favorite book characters come to life through books, games, toys, and plush. There’s always other children in the kid’s section too which allows your child to see that she isn’t the only little one looking at books. Often there are designated play areas with train tables, reading nooks, or paper and crayons. Check out the clearance section or bargain bin and consider purchasing a $1-$3 book for your child whenever you visit.
5. Allow them be in charge – Let them choose the book, hold the book, and turn the pages. Before one year of age, Sweet T would sit still for 45 minutes of reading as long as we were reading her favorite books over and over and over (Hubs and I had Baby Einstein Touch and Feel Farm Animals memorized.) At 2 years old, Sweet T would turn pages before we could read all the words or switch to another book before two pages into the first one. At the age of three, she lingered over each page noticing detail and waiting to make sure we’d read every single word to her. Whatever stage she’s in, we go with her flow.
6. Choose books featuring their favorite TV characters – Sweet T’s favorite show for a while was Sesame Street so she was automatically drawn to books featuring Elmo, Abby, and Grover. She’ll sit through a longer book if her favorite characters are featured than she will a shorter book without them. Our current obsession is Frozen…of course.
7. Take advantage of book apps – We have several books on our phones for Sweet T to look at. She enjoys swiping the screen to turn pages and having the narrator read aloud to her. Her grandmother has even more for her on her iPad.
8. Reward reluctant readers for reading – This works particularly well if your toddler is a media maven rather than a book worm. Reward time spent reading with TV, smart phone, or gaming time. When he asks to watch at episode of Caillou, say “Sure, after we read a book together.” If you have a younger toddler who doesn’t yet understand the concept of reward and consequences, use rewards during reading time. Let him enjoy fruit snacks or another treat while you’re reading together. Spread a blanket outside in the shade and read outdoors.
9. Provide an example – Does your toddler see you reading during your downtime? (What downtime? I know.) Make sure they see you with an actual book in your hands from time-to-time rather than your tablet or phone.
10. Don’t stress – Toddlers develop, grow, learn, and change drastically from their first birthday until the age of three. Just because your 22 month-old can’t sit still for an entire book doesn’t mean she isn’t going to be a reader. Try again in just a few short months and you’ll be amazed at the difference!
11. Incorporate books into your daily routine – Toddlers love routine. Sweet T doesn’t particularly like to brush her teeth, but since it’s part of the bedtime routine she accepts it. Read Goodnight Moon or a Bible story book each night before bed or before afternoon naps. Even if your toddler isn’t big on reading, he’ll appreciate the routine and enjoy what, in his mind, stalls bedtime for a little longer!
12. Get siblings involved – If your toddler has older siblings, have them read to her. If she has a baby brother or sister, have your toddler “read” baby’s favorite books to him or her. Sweet T loves to show Gus her books, and I hope one day she’ll be happy to read to him.