Raising a family of readers is not rocket science. All it takes to encourage good reading in your family is to develop some simple healthy common sense reading habits. Celebrate reading and good books in your family with these daily habits.
We talk about reading. We hear how important it is to read. We watch television programs about reading. But do we actually read? Not as often as we watch TV, listen to music and play video games. Like Nike says, to raise a family of readers, you have to ‘just do it’. Read. Your kids should grow up seeing you read in your spare time. Read for education; read for pleasure.
Fill your home with books. We have shelves and shelves of books. Many of them tattered from use. Buy secondhand books. You can afford to buy more that way. One of our favorite treats when they were young was to comb through stacks of old books at garage sales, used book stores and in the library basement.
Minimize the amount of movies and DVDs in your home and maximize the books. If you want your children to read, your home should have five books for everyone one DVD or VHS.
Put books, magazines and reading material on your coffee table, end tables and in your bathroom. My living room decor consists primarily of books. And they are not for decoration. They are for educational and entertainment purposes. I fully expect people to read and enjoy them. I always get a kick out of seeing my boys’ friends curled up in a chair perusing my latest reading selections while waiting for one of the kids. They keep me informed to when it is time to change the books for some new ones. I keep several good reads in the bathroom magazine rack as well. Our youngest daughter has taken to putting Calvin and Hobbes and Far Side treasuries in the bathroom. We all chuckle over the shared readings.
Read to the children before they go to bed at night. Begin with picture books and progress to chapter books as they grow older. Our kids loved bedtime because we got to find out what happened next in our story. I was chatting with the women who was styling my hair about her little boy; she claimed that he was ‘pretty wild and rambunctious, especially at bedtime’ (a common complaint it seems). I mentioned to her that our children enjoyed a bedtime story to help them relax. She quipped, ‘Oh he gets all riled up when we read to him, so we let him watch TV until he falls asleep.’ And therein lies one of the causes of his bedtime wildness, he thought, but didn’t say so.
Don’t censure your children’s reading material beyond making sure that they aren’t reading books that you know will frighten or unduly upset them. I have friends who allow their children to read only overtly ‘Christian’ books. This limits your child’s range of interests and knowledge. Typically the books that are written to a particular formula, such as explicit and liberal references to the Bible, God or religion, are not written as well as the books in which the story shapes naturally. Many of the classics for example, do not overtly mention God. But they are spiritual or allegorical books nevertheless. And censuring kids’ reading choices makes reading more of a chore and less of a pleasure. Why not expose them to the best in the world of literature: classics, Nobel prize winners, Pulitzer prize winners, New York Times best-sellers, Edgar Winners, Newbery and Caldecott books and other works of great literature?
Celebrate the joy of reading with your family.