Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Are we reading to our kids enough?



We spend so much time trying to pull negative things out of our kids, but how much time do we really spend purposefully offering them a desirable alternative. When it comes to promoting a healthy self image in our daughters (and sons), I'm learning that I really need to be proactive. I need to present to my children the norm I want them to have.

If you're reading this blog, I'm probably preaching to the choir--clearly YOU read-- but we really need to be reading to our kids. Some of us are juggling so much and I know it can be hard even to find a moment to breathe, but we must read to our children. I believe it is a highly effective tool to foster rich discussion about a plethora of issues.

I always marvel at how much my kids are drawn to images. Are you sick of listening to them watch their favorite video over and over yet? If we give them the opportunity, kids will do the same with books they love. I often find mine staring and thinking. What if the image they are so focused on is conveying an important message? A positive message, while they're doing it quietly... are you sold yet?

Here are some things I do to keep my family reading you may want to try:

1. Study your child so you can choose books tailored to your child's interests. Two of my daughters love all things girl-y. It would be easy for me to walk into a library or bookstore and head straight for anything pink, but I have one daughter who is fascinated by the human body. If I want to hold her attention, we need to move toward the science section--and not necessarily in her age group. Don't be limited by where the store expects you to find things.

2. Read to your child regularly. I start reading to my kids while they are in the womb. Once they are born, I find my babies are so much fun with books--especially when they're teething. As they grow older I schedule a daily story time. I commit to reading two short books or one long book aloud. This time quickly becomes their favorite time of day. Not only do they enjoy a tale of their choice, we snuggle close together and share precious cuddles. You can also reinforce your reading times by taking your child to public story times. They are often free and available at your local library or book stores like Barnes and Nobles. Sometimes a simple craft is offered at the end of the story. When my oldest was a baby, I cherished story time at the library as an opportunity for me to interact with other moms in the middle of my day. I made some valuable friendships and forged a good relationship with the library staff. I want to be heard if I make a recommendation or share a concern about what's being offered to my kids.

3. Read during a meal, snack or at bed time. You can also offer your child a coloring book, puzzle, play dough, blocks, or paper to draw on while you read to them. I've noticed that if I keep their hands busy, my kids will listen to me read for a long time.

4. Read a chapter or a few pages at a time. Even my five year old will sit still and listen to me read a book to her that has NO PICTURES in it! As long as her hands are busy, or she's cuddled in my arms, she can tune in for at least a chapter. Unfortunately, in this media crazed society we're living in, it has become a talent to sit still and pay attention. This is also great for the busy parent who is struggling to fit in a reading time. Little by little and chapter by chapter can become something you both look forward to. I think 15 minutes a day is a nice place to start.

5. Let your kids see YOU reading, and choosing recreational activities that celebrate reading. I love to read in bed at night after all the kids have gone to bed, or behind closed doors during the day while the baby is napping. I have had to force myself to bring my books to the family room instead, where I'm easily seen as everyone moves through the house. My husband reads anything and everything--no matter where we are. On a lazy Sunday afternoon after worship and a big meal, we'll get really enthusiastic about hanging out a Barnes and Nobles. Everyone gets to choose a book and we may share chocolate chip cookies or shakes after. I'm learning that no matter what we say to our kids as parents, they are eager to do what we do.


6. Encourage others to gift your kids with books. When the grandmothers ask what would make a good birthday present we often recommend a gift card to our favorite bookstore.
If this is hard for you to imagine right now, be encouraged that your child's eyes can light up to receive such a gift, if you foster an environment that celebrates reading.

Check out my review of Say No and Go by Jill Urban Donahue. I think it's a good book to use to facilitate necessary discussion with your child about stranger danger, while conveying the unspoken message that nappy hair can be the norm for everyone in a family.

11 comments:

  1. What a cute pic. :) About to order your latest book review book. It's amazing that no matter how old my kids get, and no matter how much they spend time reading to themselves, they still love read aloud time. I love it!

    ReplyDelete
  2. My son is graduating middle school in a couple of weeks and he looks at me like I'm hurting his feeling when I say we'll have to skip read alouds on a given day at lunch time. He hates eating his lunch without listening to me read. I didn't get to it in the post but I also cheat with book on tapes sometimes--particularly for when we are in the car. A good story teller is just as good if not better than a video to keep them occupied in the car.

    ReplyDelete
  3. This is super cute! Do you ever turn the tables and have them read to you? I used to do this with my youngest brother and he loved being the "big brother".

    ReplyDelete
  4. Yes--but they never last as long as they want me to last--LOL!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Audio books in the car are fabulous. And so many of the classics have free downloads. Our latest two were A Christmas Carol and Pinnochio. Both led to such great conversation. I never realised how naughty Pinnochio was! Great book on how our actions have consequences for ourselves and others.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Dr D.--Where do you find your free downloads? Got any favorite sites?

    ReplyDelete
  7. You ARE preaching to the choir with me, since I LOVE to read to my kids. But thank you for putting it out there. It's SO important! My 13 year-old still sits and listens to me read. I love it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    BTW, Jim Weiss has AMAZING audio books for the car.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Thanks for the Jim Weiss reminder. I've never heard his audio books but I have heard of him. I believe he did a reading near me that I was unable to attend. I know he has quite a following.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Usually I do a search like "download Pilgrim's Progress free audio book" to see where the book is available. What I've found is that some sites have each chapter as a separate file. I prefer the entire audio book as one file, so that's what I look for when choosing a site from which to download.

    Also, I guess because many of the classics are public domain it's easy to find them for free on several different sites. But not all of the recordings are created equally. I like to listen to a snippet before downloading to make sure that the recording is well done and will keep my children's interest.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I have no idea why I haven't thought of this before, especially since I devour any written material. Kid's asleep now, but tomorrow morning, I'm forcing my husband to stay in bed long enough for us to read a chapter of one of my fav fairy tales aloud with my boy. It'll probably help with his reading lessons as well. Thanks for the inspiration!

    ReplyDelete