Losing yourself between the pages of a book isn’t just fun, it’s also incredibly beneficial for your health. As you age, reading actually helps establish and strengthen neural pathways, improves your memory, and can reduce your stress levels. And little readers? Well, kids who read rock. The average children’s book has around 50 percent more words than a typical TV show, so children who read are exposed to more words than their peers who don’t.
But raising little readers in a world dominated by screens? That’s a whole different story.
Of my two kids, I have self-described “bookworm” and a very proud little “video game worm.” While my younger child reads decidedly less than his sister who is prone to sneaking a lantern into her bed to stay up reading well past bedtime, he still reads every day. And if a screen isn’t around? You’ll probably find him with a book.
Reading is more than just something I want my kids to do because they “have” to. I want them to truly love it as much as I do, so here are a few things we did to establish a reading foundation.
Read early, read often
I was the crazy mom, rocking a 1-month-old baby to sleep while reading her a book. There was no such thing as “too young” to enjoy a book. Books were a part of bedtime every night, and that’s just the way it was.
Fill your house with books
I hear you, books are expensive. I’ll admit that unless there is a book that I just have to have, I either get it from the library, wait till it shows up in my used bookstore, or order it used off Amazon. However, we are basically professional shoppers at our local used bookstore, and we spend Barnes and Noble gift cards (shoutout to family members who know us well) the moment they hit our hot little hands. The condition of your books don’t have to be perfect, you just need what’s on the inside.
Say “no” to screens
We are definitely a techy family, and there are screens all over my house. Computers, laptops, tablets, gaming devices — whatever it is, we probably have it. That doesn’t mean the screens follow us when we leave the house. Unless we’re going on a road trip (in which case that DVD player will be on the whole. Dang. Time.) or dealing with some other extenuating circumstance, the kids don’t get to bring a screen.
Doctor’s appointment? Better bring a book for the wait. Grocery store? Guess you’ll learn how to read and walk. Ever seen a kid read a book while getting their teeth cleaned? That’s what my video game worm did just last week.
Let them pick their own books
So you want your kid to be well-versed in fine literature. Cool. They’re probably going to hate it. What your little readers won’t hate is a book they picked out all by themselves. Even if they’re bringing home their 10th book about Minecraft or yet another Pokemon book, they’re still reading.
You need to read, too
“Hang on, let me finish this sentence.” I have said some form of this to my kids on who knows how many occasions. I don’t remember much of what my parents did to help foster my love of reading, but you know what I do remember? Them reading. I remember listening to audiobooks on road trips and spending the evening at Books-a-Million, reading a newly purchased book while my parents sipped tea from the cafe. My dad reading The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe aloud to me.
Your kids might not end up being little bookworms who cry at the mere suggestion that they stop reading and go to bed, and that’s OK. But you can still help them develop into little readers who have a foundation they can use for the rest of their lives.