you are what you read: episode 004

I began this series a few months ago with the intention of further exploring an issue that is near and dear to my heart: reading.

In episode 001 I introduced some hopeful topics; in episode 002 I shared about my favorite book, the Bible; in episode 003 I wrote about the benefits of having a library card.

Today I want to share about my belief in why it is vital to instill a love of reading into our children. This is a love for reading for all children, not just those you are teaching or homeschooling.

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It is a widely held truth that reading helps kids’ brain and neurological development. Reading, discussing ideas and vocabulary, stimulates our kids’ literacy potential later in life too. Studies have proven the connection between early reading (number and letter recognition, shape and color recognition, holding and touching books) and the indicators of later reading ability and academic success.

When children see the value placed on literacy in the home, there is a direct connection in achievement and verbal interaction. Reading allows our kids to master difficult concepts, ideas and information; it also awakens their appetites for knowledge and improves their problem solving skills.

Reading increases vocabulary which leads to better grammar (both spoken and written); this leads our kids to become overall better writers and communicators. Being a reader stimulates our kids’ empathy, creativity, imagination, and open-mindedness.

In our home, instilling this love of reading has been natural because Ryan and I are both people who love reading and value it immensely in our personal lives. Here are a few things that we have done with our kids:

1. We have always made reading materials available to our kids since they were babies.

We signed them up for the Imagination Library the minute we had their social security numbers. They have had book baskets and bins in their rooms since they were newborns. In our homes, books matter.

2. We have read aloud to our kids since birth.

Whether it was board books, touch and feel books or nursery rhymes, our kids hearing our voices reading stories aloud has given our kids a strong foundation for wanting to hear the written word even before they could read it themselves. As they have continued to grow, I still read books aloud to them. Often we read literature classics aloud for school or I’ll read selections of other fun books at bedtime. Kids love to hear how our voices can transform a story!

3. Besides books, we have given our kids things to read as gifts.

For the past six years, we have done the want/need/wear/read gifts for Christmas. Each year, our kids get a nice, hard bound book as a gift. We have also given books on CD, magazine and journal subscriptions as birthday gifts. Kids LOVE getting their own magazines in the mail. We have done Sports Illustrated for Kids, American Girl, Nat Geo Kids, Ranger Rick, Cricket, LEGO Club, Clubhouse and Clubhouse Jr. (Focus on the Family). We have also encouraged these subscriptions as wonderful grandparent gifts.

4. Our kids have had their own library cards since they were pre-readers. 

We have made trips to the library a very integral part of our weeks. We’ve done story time, library crafts and classes, summer reading programs and make it a priority to plan regular trips “just because” to check out more reading material.

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5. We have given them “blow money” to spend on their own reading material. 

I can’t tell you the times that I’ve given the kids a $10 or $20 (sometimes much less) limit to buy as many books as they’d like. They love the freedom of picking out books to their own tastes. I have done this at big-box bookstores, online at Amazon and even at thrift or used book stores.

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Adding wonderful, gently used books to our collection is one of my favorite things. In Texas, there was a great thrift store that did 10/$1 book grab bags. It was a highlight of my time there! Additionally, stores like Barnes and Noble do give a significant “Educator Discount.”

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6. We have a prominent place for books in nearly every room in our house.

We have many bookshelves, table tops and baskets where books can live. Currently Ryan and I each have a nightstand full of books, our homeschool room and bonus room each have giant, full bookshelves, our kids each have bins or baskets for their own books in each of their bedrooms. In the dining room, I store cookbooks in my sideboard; our library book bag is hanging in the entryway from the garage, and there’s (sadly) a basket of Who Was books in a basket on the back of my kids’ bathroom toilet. Reading material is never far from anyone’s reach in the Wood house.

7. We build reading time into the routines and rhythms of our day.

Since they were little, bed time routines followed a pretty rhythmic procedure: bath, teeth brushed, rub down with smell-good lotion, pick out a book or books and read. Once our kids have gotten to be around 4 or 5 years of age, they have each been given a bedside lamp and the freedom to stay up as late as they’d like reading. Our kids have always been good sleepers and well behaved. They go to bed early, we tuck them in and say prayers. They are allowed to stay up and read as long as they are quiet. There’s no getting back out of bed, no talking, no playing with other toys, NO electronics. Just free reading time as they quiet themselves and prepare for rest. As of now, our 11 year old is usually still reading at 10:30 when Ryan and I make our way to bed. We generally turn off his lamp and tell him goodnight again. Many of us also start our day with reading our Bibles or other books.

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This is not an exhaustive list of everything we do or every method we employ around here. Most of what we do does happen naturally and organically without too much trying or manipulation. Reading is so vital and important to the overall wellbeing and development of our minds.

I pray that this love for reading and information will continue to develop in my own children as their love for learning grows as well. Do you have any great tips that you’ve used to help your children fall in love with books? I’d love to hear about them!

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