I kind of agree with his wanting to flee. Who wants someone else deciding their fate for them, especially when they are just a baby?
Except I've done just that for my own child.
From the moment she was born -- maybe even before -- I decided that she would be a Reader.
And I don't just mean one who knows how to read. I mean someone with a voracious appetite for reading. Someone who finds tremendous pleasure in books. Someone who curls their toes with pleasure at the sound of a new binding cracking open, or closes their eyes to savor the smell of ink & paper.
I've decided it & now I'm going about making it so. Here's how.
A lot of this has to do with Jim Trelease & his Read-Aloud Handbook. I've mentioned it on this blog before. It is my Bible. When new parents ask me for my top ten parenting books, it's on there. It is two books in one: The first half of the book is evidence and tips for reading aloud. The second half is treasury of invaluable book recommendations, cataloged by "listening ability."
Here are Trelease & my tips for raising a reader:
- Read aloud daily. Read everything from cereal boxes to picture books to novels. Start your day by reading together in bed.You might have to set your alarm a little earlier to do this, but I promise it will quickly become something you both look forward to (so long as you are choosing books you want to read, too). Read throughout the day (waiting for your order at a restaurant, sitting in the car, at the park), and read again at bedtime. Combine reading with other pleasurable activities, like reading while enjoying a scoop of ice cream. (For older kids -- because being read to isn't just for those who can't read -- try reading to them while they are doing a chore, such as washing dishes. More on this here, plus a wonderful photo of Jim & his teen son.)
- Book baskets. Trelease says raising a reader is as simple as making books available throughout the house. He suggests a basket in the bathroom, and another where your child eats. (Ever notice that people dining alone prefer to be reading?) I have book baskets in the living room and Nia's room as well as the bathroom.
- Reading lamp. This is another Trelease trick. He recommends putting a reading lamp beside your child's bed and telling them. "You can go to bed now, or you can stay up another 10 minutes to read." Most kids will choose to stay up reading.
- Fill your home with print. The literal number of books you have in your home matters (but you don't have to buy them -- don't forget the library!). It is hard to get good at reading if you're short of books. As Trelease puts it, "Giving phonics lessons to kids who don't have any print in their lives is like giving oars to people who don't have a boat -- you won't get very far." (More here with a graph showing the average print climate in three California communities.)
- Model reading. Children want to do what their parents do, so Nia sees a lot of reading in our house from novels to cookbooks to the newspaper. (I know a lot of people read on devices these days. While I do a lot of reading on the computer, too, I don't do this in front of Nia. I prefer her to see me reading real books so that she will want to do it, too.)
- Limit screen time, but say "Yes!" audio books. I don't believe a child will fall in love with books if they are already involved in a love affair with video games or the TV. But that doesn't mean that there aren't others who read aloud much better than me (actors, for example). Nia frequently enjoys "driveway moments" -- times when Joe or I have long since parked the car and her car seat buckles have been undone but she lingers in the car to listen to an audio book just a bit longer. (Next on my list is to get this one.)
- Take your child to the library -- and get them their own library card. Who doesn't love a new book? Or a whole stack of new books? Libraries have audio books, too.
And what of Peter Pan and his running away to avoid his parents' fate for him? Well, he came back looking for a mother, which to him was someone to tell him and the Lost Boys stories. Everyone, it seems, loves a good story.
You may have a tangible wealth untold:
Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold.
Richer than I you can never be --
I had a mother who read to me.
-- Strickland Gillilan, "The Reading Mother"