The other day I was washing dishes when I noticed that Kaitlan had gotten very quiet in her room. Her room is right off the kitchen and while we typically let her go in there and play on her own (it’s childproofed to the nines), typically you can hear her banging her toys around or talking pretty loudly. But it was quiet.
Panicked, I dashed across the kitchen to her doorway and found her sitting next to a pile of board books we keep on her memory box. A book was perched on her knees and she was carefully turning the page over and back again, softly speaking and pointing to the illustrations. I quickly ducked out of the doorway before she saw me. It didn’t last much longer, but it was enough.
New parenting is full of fear and thoughts of “am I doing this right/wrong/enough/too much?” The internet provides a lot of information, but it’s the full spectrum of minimalism to micromanagement when it comes to parenting. Sometimes it’s tough to maintain a somewhat manageable, rational path through it all.
In addition to really good food, books are high on the list of things I want Kaitlan to love. Most of the advice I received was simple: Read early, read often, stick with it. So that’s what I did. But in my constant goal to pay-it-forward, I wanted to offer a few practical habits and tips that have helped us emphasize books and reading.
Ask for books as gifts to grow your collection
We’re really blessed with friends who like books as much as we do, so we received an entire library through our showers and gifts. As people ask what she’s playing with around the holidays — we plan to emphasize BOOKS!
Build the supporting skills
While we didn’t start reading from day 1, we spoke to Kaitlan constantly. We would have conversations, read from our own books and magazines, and ask her questions, and use our hands to emphasize and point.
Keep books in every room and within reach
We keep books everywhere Kaitlan spends time. We have baskets and little stacks here and there. They end up on the floor and some are looking a little battered now, but start with board books first and evolve as their interest and attention span grows.
Expand your definition of reading
Most often, our “reading” actually becomes a back-and-forth conversation about what she is thinking and feeling about what she sees and hears. Because we often are re-reading titles, I do it in a different way each time and add funny voices and add/subtract dialogue wherever I think it fits. Bottom line: there is no wrong way to do it, just do it!
Let them read to you
This won’t come for a while, but eventually your kids will pick up on what you’re doing and begin to do it themselves. It’s honestly one of the biggest thrills of my life when Kaitlan picks up a book and does voices and mimics the stories she’s heard dozens of times.
Enrich your reading experience by asking questions. Simple things like asking them to point at certain objects or if they can count how many of something is on the page. They remember you’ve done this too. Kaitlan now points out the dolls on every page of one of her books every time and knows that the bottle of milk in her farmer’s market book is the same bottle she has before bed.
Invest in different types of books
You never know what will catch them on a particular day. Have books with textures, pop-ups, pull-outs, lift-flaps — anything! Books with flaps, pull-outs and textures were some of the first that Kaitlan really gravitated toward.
Carve out a time and place, but never say no to reading
By having books in every room and places to sit and enjoy them, we’ve increased both the probability and frequency Kaitlan reads them. But when she comes to us outside those areas, we always work to acknowledge her desire to read or read with us, even if we’re busy.
Do you have reading tips for babies and children? I’d love to hear more ideas, especially if you’re kids are a little older!
…And I’m currently compiling Kaitlan’s very own “What I’m Reading” list — stay tuned!
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