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.