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Raising Readers

storytime on the couch

Knowledge is power and reading is knowledge, so I’m thrilled to have three kids who love books! Here are a twelve things we do to encourage that trend:

  • Read to and with them often.
  • Let early readers read aloud to you. It builds confidence, gives kids a chance to ask for help with unknown words, and develops read-aloud skills.
  • Have books in the house. We built our library through hand-me-downs from friends and family, library book sales, and Scholastic sales.
  • Make the most of your local library. I’m amazed at the selection of books that are available, and I can even request books online and have them waiting at the front desk!
  • Don’t keep all the books in the same place. We have a book basket in the living room as well as a half bookshelf in the kids’ room. The living room basket houses our library books, and the bookshelf has our home library of children’s literature.
  • Take turns reading books they find interesting as well as books you find interesting. Everyone benefits from the diversification of topics! I’m learning a lot about spiders, scorpions, and other venomous creatures, at the moment…
  • Don’t limit their book selections based on perceived skill or understanding. I never would have expected my kindergartener’s reading to take off with the Ramona series, which I didn’t get into until second or third grade, but those were the books that caught her interest.
  • Let them see you reading. If they know that you value reading, they will value it as well.
  • Include wordless picture books in your library. They build narration skills, and help kids pay attention to plot sequencing.
  • Pay attention to reviews. I have found a number of our favorite books through blogs that I read on a regular basis – especially Mom and Kiddo, Mouse Grows, Mouse Learns, and Adventures in Mommydom.
  • Encourage kids to write books of their own, and to narrate their drawings.
  • Try new types of books. My six-year-old adores poetry, and my two-year-old loves “sound books” full of onomatopoeias!

What are your top reading tips? What children’s books can you recommend to us?

MaryAnne is a craft loving educator, musician, photographer, and writer who lives in Silicon Valley with her husband Mike and their four children.

35 thoughts on “Raising Readers”

  1. Here’s a few things we do in addition to the things you mentioned.

    When it’s nice outside we read on a blanket or in the grass. They know reading isn’t just an inside activity but something they can do anytime and anywhere.
    When reading a book I always say who the author and illustrators are so they can have a sense of “this was created by someone just like you and me and YOU can create this too if you want to”. Printing black/white mini books online and letting them be the illustrators by coloring them in is fun for this too.
    When I want them to stay busy for a short period of time instead of “go turn on the TV ” I say “read a book” while I do such n such. Even though they can’t read yet I purposeful tell them to “read” the book, and make up their own stories as they flip through the pages.
    When they want to learn how to draw something specific, like a grasshopper, we’ll open up a book and learn from the illustrator.

    At 3 and 2 my children love reading and I’m so very proud of that! :-)

  2. Wonderful tips! My mom created a Book Nook for me, a comfy spot in a corner of the living room with pillows, blankets, and baskets of books. To this day one of my favorite things to do is spend a day curled up in a comfortable place with a good book!

  3. I have two suggestions. 1.) I have recently “rediscovered” the library. I having books, but my son sometimes doesn’t take an interest in the subject matter and then you’re stuck with books your kid doesn’t like. And after a while, 2.99 adds up! In fact, I’m trying to learn to sew, and checked out two books for myself. 2.) My son didn’t seem very interested in some of the books I was purchasing, but I noticed he liked this comic-like book that was in with a pair of Sketcher’s shoes. I’ve found some comic like readers that he loves! There’s the “Fly Guy” series, “Hiro the Dragon”, and some elementary superheros (they have braces and defend against wedgies). He thinks they are funny and loves to read them. And their in the library too!

  4. I’m an elementary school librarian and mom who loves reading (especially to kids)! I love your tips. I recently started a children’s literature blog to recommend great books. I hope you find some new titles there that your children will love.

  5. I guess it’s fortunate that I work in a library. When I come home from work everyday, I have a new book for my little girl. I have effortlessly instilled in her a love for reading. I am also proud of her progress. In a short span of time, we have moved on from board books, to early chapter books.

  6. Great tips! I also love your weekly reading list. J likes and reads(/memorizes) the “If you give a __ a ___” series of books. They are predictable and go into cause and effect (though some cause/effect relationships are questionable). J also really likes to read the Llama Llama books. The author does a great job relating to little kid situations and emotions with a cutesy rhythm. We’re starting the reading process with J’s extreme interest in how words are spelled. We have a fridge and a dishwasher full of alphabet magnets. It’s so fun to see him recognize words.

  7. Didi {Duck Duck Octopus}

    This is an excellent post, and your suggestions for encouraging kids to read are spot on. When we aren’t outside, we are either at the library or cuddled up with a book. At the moment, “Encyclopedia Prehistorica: Sharks and other sea monsters” is a favorite. It is a pop-up book with lots of information about prehistoric critters.

  8. This is a great list. The only thing I would add is to take advantage of your local library and bookstore. Many have areas reserved for children, and more and more of them are allowing kids to be kids in those spaces, loud voices and all. That’s actually how my girls taught me that they were interested (rather, OBSESSED) with books I’d never even heard of.

  9. Elisa | blissfulE

    Life is delightful with lots and lots of books… it is fun to see interests develop and favourites emerge.

    I wish I could let my kids just browse through our local library’s children and youth section. However, I have spent hours there (without the kids) searching intently, and the only fiction book I could find that met my criteria in the junior section was “Charlotte’s Web”. The other selections indicate that someone thinks kids who can read will only read fiction books about vampires, witchcraft, dating and/or candy (a lot of the early readers focus exclusively on this topic).

    The junior non-fiction section is laden with references to evolution, even when the topic surely doesn’t need it. For instance, a book about boats will include something like “man has evolved to develop opposable thumbs that let him tie knots…” Maybe such things are required to be included in order to spend taxpayer dollars on a non-fiction children’s book in my area? The adult non-fiction has been excellent with amazing photos and focusing on the topic at hand, but those are very expensive to replace (many have the dollar amount on the cover) and I have to be vigilant when we bring them home.

    The picture book selection is pretty good, and I can also select some titles online and get them sent to my local library for me to pick up. I am also seriously considering an eReader for Nikki and a paid membership at a US public library in order to broaden her selection.

    1. How frustrating! We have been quite happy with the non-fiction and fiction selection for young children in our library. I haven’t ventured into the early reader chapter book section yet – we owned copies of Ramona and the Little House series, and Emma has been content with those. Is there an Australian version of Paperbackswap, so that you could obtain chapter books that way?

      1. Elisa | blissfulE

        You are so kind to respond to my library rant. :)

        I’ll have to check if there is any book swapping (local or Australia-wide) here in Oz.

    2. I completely understand! We had the world’s most amazing kids’ section at the public library where we used to live, but our current one has nothing at all for kids between ages 3 and 12. :(

  10. Great suggestions!! Our newest favorites include Green and Z is for Moose. And both my girls are loving older Lois Lowry titles right now- I am reading aloud the Gooney Bird Greene series to my youngest and my oldest is loving the Anastasia books. I am excited to go and check out the blogs you mentioned- I love adding new one to my favorites!!

    1. I just read about the Gooney Bird Greene series on Mom and Kiddo (one of the blogs I linked) and was intrigued – great to get a second recommendation for the same series! I’ll be looking for your other favorites as well – thank you for sharing them!

  11. Great list – I agree with everything!

    My 4 year old just picked out a book about NATO from the library – just go with it, right?!

    1. It’s so funny to see different interests develop! I remember my 5yo brother coming and sitting next to me while I was doing homework (I would have been 17), looking in my history book, and saying, “Oh, that’s the USS ____” Sure enough, he was right. He couldn’t read, but he knew his naval ships!

  12. My 8-year-old was struggling with reading, so during our off-track time in January, we started reading for hours and hours at a time. He read aloud to me and I read aloud to him. It’s made a huge difference! Now he can’t seem to get enough of reading. Last night we read two chapters aloud and they were begging for more! We also love reading in the car…

  13. Great ideas all. I am so happy that Anna loves reading. I don’t need to do much to encourage her. In fact, sometimes I have to ask her to put a book down and do something else :)

  14. I couldn’t agree more with all of your tips and I am glad to say I do almost all of them. When we go to the library I am sometimes surprised at the books the kids choose, pleasantly so. I get 2 cards worth at a time which is 60 books. Even when my kids couldn’t read they ‘read’. My son says he is addicted to books. I love it!

  15. Wonderful list of ideas! I love to read and I love to have my kids read…I could do better at using the library…but I love to collect our own books!

  16. I have to admit I’m not good at trying the new types of books. I tend to stick to narratives and nonfiction, but we do try large varieties of those ones…….

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