Annette Lyon over at the Lyon's Tale just did a great post on literacy. I have much more to say about the issue than is proper to leave in a comment, so below is a slight reword of one of my posts from last year on the subject.
Reading is one of my very favorite things, and so crucial to academic, social and spiritual growth. The big question is, as a mom, how do I foster a love of the written word in my children?
Here are my thoughts on the subject:
1. Read with them. Often! From birth to the day they leave home. It's a wonderful experience to introduce your young children to beloved picture books, but too many parents stop there. Some of my favorite moments as a parent have been spent reading novels to my older children.
2. Read good quality children's literature. I have only one criteria for determining if a book is good quality, but it's served me well. If I can enjoy reading a book repeatedly to my children, it's good quality. If the second or third reading makes me want to put it through the shredder, it's not. I try never to buy poor quality books. Why spend money on something I will loathe reading to my munchkins?
3. Make it interesting and fun. We've all been stuck in that history class where the aging coach reads the textbook day after day in his monotonous drone. Don't ever do that to your kids. You're in the privacy of your own home, ham it up, for heaven's sake! Give unusual characters funny voices, use lots of inflection, pause at the right places for maximum suspenseful impact, etc. Your voice will bring the story to life if there's life in your voice. Don't know how? Don't worry, it's a skill that can be learned with practice (and you'll never have a more forgiving audience than your wee ones). Note: Did you know that the concept of silent reading is a modern invention? In ancient times reading was always done aloud. Have you experienced the fact that your ears can tell you things about a story that your eyes can't?
4. Start reading novels to your children at a young age. Picture books are one of my favorite things. However, children as young as 4 can start to participate in the world of chapter books. You may need to talk frequently about what is going on and review the plot each time you pick it up. All the better! Encourage your children to ask questions. It will improve their communication skills. And don't be afraid to read books to your children that are a little above them. It's good for them to listen "up".
5. Have books in your home. Use the library on a regular basis. Purchase books for birthdays and Christmas*. You'll be surprised how fast your library grows! Having books in your home not only sends the message that books are important, it gives children the opportunity to peruse books at their leisure.
6. Read yourself. If you're like me, you don't need to be told this. Instead, you need to get your nose out of your book a bit more and take the kids to the park (or wash the dishes). But too many busy moms never seem to find the time to lose themselves in the written word. It's truly one of life's joys and our little ones should see our passion for reading.
The essence of my philosophy is this: A young child who has been to far away places, experienced high adventure, overcome formidable obstacles, witnessed hilarious antics and met fascinating people, all as your voice brings the words on page to life, may still have difficulty with the mechanics of learning to read, but they will not need to be convinced that reading is important. The desire to read will a part of them. They will be eagerly anticipating the day when they can enter the world of books on their own.
How do you help your children develop a love a reading?
* Books are expensive, so unless you know it's good quality, check it out of the library first. I almost never buy a book from a bricks and mortar store (although I love to look at books there). Most of my purchasing, however, happens at websites such as this one or this one, and even this one, where I can find new and gently used books for bargain prices.