The Personal Connection
As we have been talking about for awhile, there are a lot of ways to develop an appreciation for reading and literacy in the lives of our children. So many people fail to develop that habit as kids, for a variety of reasons. Last time we talked about a number of tips and tricks, things that you can try to turn the reading experience into a more social phenomenon.
Another way to really help our kids develop as readers, is to introduce our kids to texts that are personally relevant, books that are practical and useful.
When we think about getting our children to read, we are inclined to think about fiction. As parents, we enjoy reading stories to our kids. The vast majority of books designed for, and loved by little kids tend to be fictional or concept based.
Yet, when we get to be adults, the reading trends tend to change significantly. No matter how successful the latest Nora Roberts or James Patterson novel is doing, fictional books are always being outsold by non-fiction. While people don’t always have time for adventure or reverie between the pages of a book, people will make time to further educate themselves.
If we want to help encourage our kids to become better, more habitual readers, than perhaps something can be learned from adult reading trends. Instead of pushing our kids to fall in love with Harry Potter, perhaps we should be steering them towards books that are more relevant and useful.
For younger readers: Find books that connect to their experiences. My wife and I have had a lot of success with this. When our son Milo enters into a new phase of his life, we try and pick up a few books that directly connect to what he is going through. When it is time to start potty training, get your hands on some potty training books. When Milo learned he was going to become a big brother, we picked out a number of titles to help him prepare for the concept. Books can be a great way to reinforce the things you are trying to teach at home. Hence, for every silly Stephen Kellogg or Oliver Jeffers book we have, we have a book about doctors, dentists, feelings, the potty, being a big brother, and all sorts of other topics.
These days, there is a kids book for just about everything, and teaching your kids that books are a resource of information, is a great way to kindle that fire. Also, it helps tie reading into nearly every aspect of your child’s life. If you are looking for help, since the start of Cincinnati Mom’s Blog, we have been posting our favorite books that relate to specific themes.
For all readers: Use books as a way for kids to explore their interests and passions. Awhile back, Milo began to take an interest in the concept of ‘Earth’ and planets. Seeing a golden opportunity, I dug out a few books I had from a research unit on space, and he and I poured over the pictures as I shared with him some basic facts. In a short time, our three-year-old became obsessed. Quickly, he could name all of the planets, and identify most of their key features. He used to talk about how you could cook a pizza on the surface of Venus in 15 seconds. His passion wasn’t for the books we were looking at, but for the information and pictures inside. Yet, regardless of why he was opening those books, those books were opened and he was getting a lot of if, even if he can’t read.
Today, he and I got into a conversation about blood. The idea of blood and veins and skeletons really seemed to interest him, which is why he and I will swing over to the library and find a few books that relate to his questions. Again, not only does it help him find the answers to his questions, but it reinforces the usefulness of books and reading in his life.
If you have a kid that really likes sports, getting him connected with books about sports or athletes. Check out biographies of different players, or even fiction books written by professional athletes.
If you develop this habit early enough, it is one that has the strong potential of sticking. Whenever something new pops up in our lives, the first thing I usually do is find a book about it. With libraries at our disposal, we can all afford to offer this same opportunity to our kids, and not only foster a love of learning, but a passion for reading at the same time.
To read the first installments in this series on How to Build a Bookworm, click HERE.