Developing a Reader

By Jill Berry

I’m in the midst of the Great Bedroom Declutter of 2009. Pray for me. With a kid, a preteen, and a teen, you can imagine how much stuff we have crammed in to our house. My children save everything from Halloween candy to Valentine’s cards to craft kits to notepads to sheets of stickers to clothes that don’t fit to well, name something and I can probably find it in one of their rooms. Add to the mess my old notebooks from school and college, my childhood stamp album, a collection of t-shirts destined to become a quilt, and a host of other items small and large — and you can imagine the clutter. Even my husband has been known to hang on to a few things. As you can see my children get their packrat tendencies naturally.

Through the Great Bedroom Declutter of 2009, I amassed 2 garbage bags of paper and assorted no longer needed items from the girls’ rooms, as well as a couple of boxes of clothes for consignment and charity stores. I did notice one thing as I sorted through my preteen and teen’s rooms. I was unable to throw out any books…not one. You see we are a book reading family. My teen has been known to read a huge novel like Twilight followed by one of her 6-year-old brother’s readers. This kid reads anything. The preteen devours books, too. Some families are in to music, others are in to movies. We are a book family.

My earliest book memory is Topsy and Tim, a series of early readers from my childhood in England. The simple storylines and repetitive phrases helped me learn to read. My children all have experienced the Topsy and Tim books.

I never read to my children in utero — it would have felt odd. But, as soon as my children were home from the hospital I read to them all day and every day. You see I am one of those moms who is not naturally gifted in playing with her children. I had to teach myself how to interact with my child. I would play with the shape sorter bucket or blocks or cars or dolls, but I never felt like a natural at play. I remember telling my daughter what I was doing during diaper changes, feeding, and baths since I had a natural inclination to be quiet with my daughter.
Developing a Reader

Over the years we have amassed quite a library for our children. I literally would do without something in order to buy one of my children a book. A trip to Borders children’s section or the sight of the Scholastic book catalog in my child’s backpack is heaven to me.

Tips for creating young readers:

– Place books in the rooms in the house that your child is in. We have books in the bedrooms, family room, and living room. We’re not a books-in-the-bathroom family!

– Create a reading space in your child’s bedroom or playroom. A comfy chair, a beanbag, a rug.

– Make books a part of your daily routine. I read books whenever the children brought me a book to read. I placed books beside the glider in the bedrooms for reading at naptime and bedtime.

– When reading to children of different ages, I would choose one book for each child and then one book that I thought would appeal to both.

– When my children learned how to read, I noticed that each child wanted to read to the younger child.

– Store your books. My parents bought each child a bookshelf with the child’s name carved on it for the bedroom. In the family room or playroom, I store books in milk crates, bokshelves, baskets.

– Purchase some classic books for your child to have on hand. Goodnight Moon and Runaway Bunny were our board book staples. All three children listened to those books each and every day through about age 2.

– Explore your local library. Libraries usually have a large stock of board books. You may want to testdrive a board book with your child before purchasing your own copy. My children would become attached to the library book and not want me to return it. In other cases, I realized that the board book was too simple or poorly illustrated. I would return those books ASAP!

– Attend storytime at the local library. Your child will love hearing a different person read books!

– Get your child a library card when your child is about 4 years old. My kids loved checking out books with their card.

– With a kid, a preteen, and a teen, we have a huge number of children’s books. When one child outgrows a book, I will move the book to the younger sibling rooms or I will consign the book. My son — for some reason — is not partial to princess books or My Little Pony!

Books are my favorite pastime. Children may be transifxed by TV, video games, computer, and handheld devices, but books don’t require a battery or a power cord!

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