Time to Play: Raising a Reader

I am a reader. A few years back I was a book buyer. This meant that I was knee deep in some type of literature at least 16 hours out of my day. Can you say divine?

When I was pregnant, I knew this kid would be a reader, too. Her book collection started in utero and now rivals that of many adults. She’s 3.

I remember reading to her when she was in the womb. She used to do somersaults as I read the bedtime books that I loved. As I transitioned from maternity leave, reading at night became part of the routine. I’d sit her on my lap facing out, and we would happily devour whatever literature we had in front of us. At 4 months she started flipping board book pages.

But that was nothing compared to what I have now. And all of this makes me think.

You see, my parents were not educated people. My dad didn’t finish middle school and my mom didn’t finish high school. How did I grow up with a passion for reading? I think I’ve captured it in three steps:

  1. Got books? They made sure I had books. I remember bringing home book club forms and library cards and they were all accepted with open arms in my house. I didn’t always finish the gazillion books I checked out but they were there.
  2. Make it a game. I am always astounded as to how many “games” are played with children that contribute to reading. They’re called pre-reading skills. Anything from creating a story around their toys to making a game out of finding different objects they can name around the room. I do this with my girl now but I remember life being so much fun then as I played with mom in the kitchen or sat with dad around the dining room table.
  3. Storytelling. My parents were not readers but they sure were storytellers. I found out a great deal about family and life by sitting down and listening to their stories. Storytelling involves language and a love of language leads to a love of books.

These are the three things that I remember my parents doing for me. To that, I’ve added making sure my girl has lots of playtime with age-appropriate toys. (I found out about the importance of age-appropriate toys here on Time to Play.) It has been amazing watching her imagination unfold: pretending to do anything from eating a cupcake made out of a basketball to going on a train ride to watching the imaginary circus.

I let her narrate stories for me. We take turns reading books and I make sure she has structured and unstructured playtime. Anything that allows her imagination to grow is a beautiful thing.

Don’t forget to encourage dramatic play. Around here, we like to have concerts. As a parent, get into it. Nothing pleases your child more than seeing you sing and dance. For some of you, I suggest you bask in the sun because if you are like me and can’t hold a note to save your life, your child will be asking you to stop singing before you know it.

It’s all about play. About building the connections and understanding that spoken and written words can stand for real objects and experiences. I love that, don’t you? What advice do you have for those of us that wish to raise a reader?

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