By Sarah Hamaker
What’s the best predictor of a child who reads well? Hint, it’s not teaching him to read at a young age.
I’ve always loved books. I read voraciously as a child, churning through biographies of famous Americans and Nancy Drew mysteries (especially the first editions set in the 1930s and ‘40s). I read classics like Jane Eyre and frothy teen romances. I gobbled up Agatha Christie and biographies of missionaries.
That love of reading continued into my college and young adult years. I would read at least a book a week, if not more, while commuting on the Metro to work in downtown Washington, D.C. I didn’t slow down until I had children…and didn’t have as much discretionary time as I once had enjoyed.
Nowadays, I, along with my husband, still read as much as possible, and our home is packed with books. We must have hundreds, if not a thousand, books on shelves scattered around our 1960s rambler.
Our four children also spend much of their free time with their nose in a book. How did we manage to raise readers in a world that has embraced technology and hand-held devices with gusto? Here’s our secret…and how you too can encourage reading and a love of books in your own home, no matter the age of your kids—or yourself.
Instill a Love of Books
Reading to your kids of all ages is important to getting them to forge connections with books, even when they can’t read themselves. When our kids were toddlers, I often sat them down with a stack of age-appropriate books for them to look through on their own. That became my go-to when the child got fussy or needed down time—I brought out the books. We also didn’t push reading, and as a result, while our two oldest (who happen to be girls) learned to read by the time they entered first grade, our two youngest (boys) didn’t master reading until well into first grade. That didn’t worry me—they were interested in books, loved to be read to, and didn’t exhibit any signs of learning disabilities that might make reading difficult. The boys simply blossomed later when it came to reading. I didn’t want to turn them off a love of books, so didn’t push them to practice reading when they clearly weren’t interested or frustrated by the process.
Limit Screen Time
From computers to video games to YouTube to movies, screens have invaded the average American household. Many families have more devices than household members, and we’re not alone in that. But, every since our kids were babies, we’ve restricted the number of hours they spent in front of a screen. With two teenage daughters and two upper elementary school sons, we continue to monitor and limit the amount of technology consumed in our household.
Visit the Library
We go to the library on at least a weekly basis, sometimes, more often if a book someone put on hold arrived. We’ve been known to visit the local library when vacationing (most cities offer a “visitors” library card in which you can check out books). Frequent visits allows us to know the library collection and find new authors we would probably have missed if we only browsed online.
Show by Example
As I mentioned above, my husband and I read. We talk about books we’re reading or have read, we maintain our own household library, and our kids see us reading on a regular, sometimes daily, basis. We put down our own devices to pick up a book, and that speaks volumes as to the importance of reading.
If you’re reading this, and you haven’t incorporated reading into your life, there’s still time, no matter how old or young you are. Try this: tonight, put down your electronic devices and pick up a book to read for 5 minutes. Then each successive day, lengthen that by 5 minutes. Soon, you’ll be spending more time reading and less time browsing online. This works for kids and teens too.
Remember, it’s never too late to learn to love books!
About Sarah Hamaker
A freelance writer and editor, Sarah Hamaker is the author of Ending Sibling Rivalry: Moving Your Kids From War to Peace (Beacon Hill Press, 2014) and Hired@Home (DPL Press, 2008). Her stories have appeared in several Chicken Soup for the Soul books, and her articles on parenting have been published on Crosswalk.com and on the Washington Post’s On Parenting blog. She also won the 2015 American Christian Fiction Writers Genesis Award for romantic suspense. Sarah lives in Virginia with her husband and four children, and is a certified Leadership Parenting Coach™. Visit her online at www.sarahhamaker.com, where she blogs about parenting issues.
How to Raise Readers by Sarah Hamaker, Guest Blogger
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