Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Reading is fun! (no, really)

I'm a reader. A really voracious reader. At this point in my life I read mainly for escapism and entertainment...one reason I really like e-books (no one can see what fluff you are reading). I didn't read to my pregnant belly with either kid, although arguably Brighton eavesdropped on Pacey's bedtime stories for awhile. I have always been excited about sharing books with my kids though, and they already have entire series of chapter books waiting for them to be old enough to read aloud (Mrs. Piggle Wiggle, Ramona Quimby and all the Roald Dahl books, to name a few).

However, it hasn't been as easy to get the kids interested in books as I thought. I don't know how early you can identify a "bookie" but neither kid shows any early signs. There were phases, sure, when Pacey was younger that we were pretty good about reading every night before bed but when Brighton was born it all sort of went out the window. One day a few months ago I retrieved Pacey from his bedroom following his Quiet Time and found that he had ripped a book into a million little pieces. One we really liked too! (Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, in case you wondered). I was really upset with him and removed all books from his room at that point.

It's been a ongoing goal of mine, though, to be more book-centric and so I thought I would share a few of the things that have worked in getting the kids more interested.

1. Create a space for books. I've always made a point of having books all over the house, always accessible. I find, however, that if books are competing with other more "exciting" toys, they'll often get brushed aside. Recently, we decided to convert our upstairs landing (outside their bedrooms) to a reading corner for the kids. I moved a bookshelf out there and organized all their books within their reach (putting the board books all in a bin on a shelf made them feel more manageable to keep tidy) and plopped a bean bag chair and colorful US map rug down in front. Amazingly, they've independently chosen to sit down and read more times in that space since I put it together than in the last year altogether.

2. If you have more than one kid, read to them separately. There's nothing I love more than having a kid tucked under each arm listening to a story. Realistically though, that lasts about 3.2 seconds before someone is poking someone, someone else gets distracted, and suddenly the kids are involved in a wild rumpus rather than reading about one. Plus, they have different interests at this age. I've had much more luck getting the kids to listen to a story individually, and this has allowed me to read to Brighton ("my" kid to put to bed) each night again.

3. Accept that they may not like the books you like. This is a hard one for me. My mom saved all of our books from childhood and has been sending them to us a few at a time for our kids. So, so awesome (I love my battered copy of Goodnight Moon) but a lot of them are not huge favorites with my kids. I get so excited and nostalgic to see the books I loved as a child but...I don't know, maybe they just don't have the frame of reference yet? Whatever the reason, they couldn't care less about Swimmy or Stone Soup right now. Thankfully they do love some really great books, like the Llama Llama series by Anna Dewdney...in fact, Brighton's very favorite book right now is Llama Llama Mad at Mama. (foreshadowing?) Anyway, I hope that one day they'll enjoy the books I remember loving so much, or at least will develop the maturity and politeness to sit through them while I enjoy them.

4. Don't hesitate to simplify a plot or words. I don't feel like either of my kids is really in the process of learning to read right now, so we're not focusing on word recognition or anything like that while we read. I have found that at times they really like characters and plotlines but the books are just too wordy. So, I have started summarizing the pages in more of a conversational tone with them, until they get the idea of the plot. They tend to be much more interested, thereafter, in listening to the story as written.

This is something that's so important to me, and it's been really hard to be patient with the process. We do make progress all the time though, and I make a point of taking the kids to the library too even though it's mainly a giant pain in the ass to make sure they are behaving appropriately and not spending the entire time whining to play computer games on the library computers.

We have a really great collection of classic kids' books, but I would love to hear some suggestions of more recently published books your kids are loving.

1 comment:

Heather said...

I'm also a huge reader (about 2-3 books a week) and I'm passionate about making sure my kids are too, so we read all the time here!

We have incorporated booked into our daily routine- if nothing else, I know my kids will have at least 4 books a day read to them because we read 2 before naps and 2 before bed. My son is 5 and some days instead of napping, he'll have quiet time and there are always books on hand for that (he's just starting to be able to sight read- so if nothing else, he'll flip thru a book to find "the," "a", "they", etc).

Our childcare provider also takes them to the library at least once a week, so there is always a fresh crop of books to pick from which helps a lot in holding their attention.

We absolutely love the Junie B Jones book- there is a series when she's in Kindergarten & 1st grade. I prefer the Kindergarten series b/c they are shorter and simpler for the kids to understand. I do have to edit these books when I'm reading them aloud- Junie can be quite sassy and sometimes uses words we don't (stupid, hate, etc)- but the books make all three of us (son is 5, daughter is 3) laugh out loud.

Happy reading- and please share your adult books recs, I'm always looking for something good to read!