Monday, March 24, 2008

Reading for Children

Easter was yesterday and my grandchildren all received books from the Easter Bunny. I was so impressed that my daughters did that. I used to wonder if I was just a complete nerd because I would give my children books as gifts for any holiday at all. But apparently somewhere through the years, they must have appreciated it, because now they seem to be doing the same with their children. It is fun to see my daughter’s be excited about their children learning to read. What a great experience that is! All of my kids have grown up to be readers and I consider it one of our greatest gifts to them that we encouraged their reading.

I have begun to think back at the different ways I tried to encourage them to read, some successful, some not! Until just a few years ago, we always had Book Night a few days after Christmas. It came about because I wanted to give them books for Christmas, but knew that they would be lost among all the other gifts, and not really appreciated on Christmas morning. So a few days after Christmas, would be Book Night and each of us (Mom and Dad too) would get a book, wrapped up to open. It was such fun for me to try to find the perfect book for that year. Some years I did better than others! I do remember the kids really looking forward to it, however.

I always took the kids to the library often. We were lucky enough to live just a few blocks away from a small library branch (McClure branch) and so we were constantly walking over there, usually with one in a stroller, to check out books, or go to story time. I think it was one of the best advantages that we had of living in the city. As the kids got older, they were able to ride their bikes there.

It was always fun going to the main library downtown. They have a great children’s area, and the kids were always excited about going there to look around at everything and to choose some books.

I also tried some things that may not have encouraged reading like I hoped, but perhaps my kids would say differently. At least for one summer, I had the girls do book reports on what they had read. They didn’t seem to care for that (imagine!). I think that one year I also had a list of books that I thought they should read. Again, didn’t work out so well! But perhaps somewhere in their minds, it re-enforced that seed that reading is important. At least it didn’t seem to kill the reading spirit in them! But I kind of don’t think it encouraged it, either!

I also used to always drag the kids into bookstores whenever I would come across one. I don’t think that doing so was helpful in encouraging them to read. I would get too involved in looking and they soon began to dread going to bookstores with me, because I would be in there so long. Maybe if there had been stores like Barnes and Noble and Borders with great kid areas, it would have seemed more like a treat to them!

In our new home, we have a small area off the dining area that we weren’t sure what to do with. Early on after we had moved in, I had my great idea of making it a reading area. My husband built a beautiful oak bookcase that goes from wall to wall, ceiling to floor for all of my books. The most accessible bottom shelf is filled with children’s books, so that even the youngest of the grandchildren is able to crawl over and pull out a book. Then I shopped until I found the perfect chair and ottoman for the corner of the area. The chair is just the right size for an adult and a child to sit in, so that they can read a book together. It is one of my very favorite areas of our home. It turned out to be an excellent feature of the house.

Of course, I have a shelf in my kitchen cabinets for cookbooks. I have a bookcase in my study for my genealogy books. I have an above-the-bed wall-hung bookcase in the bedroom. My new stamping area includes bookshelves, and my plans for the family room in the basement include bookcases. I just can’t have enough space for books!

Certainly, I think that children seeing books in a home gives the message that reading is important to that family.

I would love to hear what others have done to encourage their children to read!

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