Our children – all 4 – love thunderstorms. That’s a fortunate thing since we live on the Gulf Coast, where storms are created over our warm waters! Every Summer day, they run onto the back porch to stomp with the thunder. But they have not always been so fearless. Each of them as babies and toddlers, were naturally afraid of storms – not screaming, but looking intently at me to see if there was need to fear. If I was afraid, they would be afraid. If I loved storms, they’d love storms.
Recently, I was reading about…reading…and having a love of reading. I wondered if it also is not a learned trait rather than a natural one? Jim Trelease, in the Read-Aloud Handbook, writes,
In concentrating exclusively on teaching the child how to read, we have forgotten to teach him to want to read…somehow we lost sight of the teaching precept: What you make a child love and desire is more important than what you make him learn.”
Our four children have such different personalities, but all four are avid readers. A friend, who has five children who do not enjoy reading, asked me how we taught our children to love reading. The question surprised me, as we didn’t do it on purpose and I had never wondered about it.
After thinking it over, these might be the reasons why our children love to read:
- I love to read. They have seen mama with reading material in her hands every day, all of their lives. There’s no such thing as “no time to read,” as all you need are a couple of minutes to read a paragraph. Paragaph upon paragraph, a book is read. In our house, Daddy doesn’t read much, so don’t worry if you’re the only adult reader in the house.
- We read aloud to them. Not every day. I wish we did read to them daily; it’s one of my goals, and has been one of my goals for a decade or so, but we do read aloud fairly often. When we read, it is always with inflection, sometimes with a tear (Horton makes me cry), sometimes with the deepest of belly laughs (Calvin & Hobbes), and sometimes with respect.
- We only read quality books and magazines. When I was first introduced to the concept of “living books,” I became paralyzed by what was a good book and what wasn’t considered a good book. Don’t do that. You’ll stop reading books, frustrated by the choices. Just go with what you think is a good, entertaining book. Do you have a childhood favorite? Start there. Introduce it to your child. Books are timeless. Our children loved Dick & Jane, for example, which are such old and non-techie books! They are good examples of a book series that someone else may not think is “good quality,” as they are quite simple. It doesn’t matter if a book is on someone else’s list of favorites. It can still be on ours.
- We don’t make a big deal about it. We don’t assign a certain number of pages (unless it’s a book that needs to be read a certain pace, like a history book). During school hours, for reading or literature time, I often say, “Read 30 minutes today, from a book of your choice.” Reading can be done anywhere: on the bed, in the rocking chair, or in the yard (see photo below of our then-12yo daughter). Also, if a book isn’t preferred, and isn’t needed for a certain reason (such as a history book), it can be shelved. Sometimes, we just don’t like a book. That’s okay, as long as he or she doesn’t dislike every book.
How to teach your child to love reading, if he’s especially reluctant.
If my child was reluctant, here’s what I would do: I would read aloud from an interesting book, stop mid-chapter in the middle of an exciting scene, or at a point in the story where one must know what happens next. I’d then silently place a bookmark, close the book, and set it down in a highly-trafficked spot. Likely, your child will not stay silent, but will beg you to read more. Say, “Oh, I have something of my own to read. You go ahead and finish this one.” If he wants to share the experience with you, let him read aloud to you.
Last year, I wanted our 14yo to read Watership Down, but he grew too bored of it too quickly. I didn’t want this book shelved, as I hoped for the discussion and deep thinking that would follow. I read aloud from Watership Down for about a week’s worth of school days. By then we were well into the story, figuratively on the edge of a cliff, so that our son had to know what happened next. I bookmarked the book, set it on the table, and said, “You go ahead and finish this, if you like. I’ve read it already.” He immediately picked up the book and read it through.
Here are some of our family’s current favorites:
from our 9th grader (15yo):
from our 7th grader (just turned 13yo):
from our 5th grader (10yo):
from our 2nd grader (7yo):
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (as a read-aloud)
As we each have our likes & dislikes, preferences & personalities, our favorites may not work well for you and your children. So let’s get more opinions! What are your family’s favorite books? Let us know, in the “comments” section, below. I will create a list for others so we can help each other!
p.s. note: all book links above are affiliate links, which sends us back about 4% from Amazon at no cost to you. As always, I only mention what I really like and truly use.