I held my arms tightly around him, forcing his little body to stay seated against his will. I opened up the Cats and Dogs Fingertrail Playbook from Usborne, convinced it was oh-so-vital for his development…but he was not having it. Squirm. Wiggle. Yell.
Just sit still, darn it!
Hope was starting to fade. Maybe this second child would not love reading with me as much as my first did. I felt defeated. I caught myself saying:
“I guess he is just not a reader…”
Whoa whoa, now back up there mama! What did you just say?
I had to stop myself mid-thought because spoiler alert: I think we can make readers out of all our kids…
But what if YOU are not a reader? If you want to create a culture of reading at home, it starts at the top. With YOU mama.
The Key To Create A Reading Culture At Home
If you are serious about wanting to create a reading culture at home, you have to recognize that it starts at the top, friend. As a parent, that culture is going to come from you.
Maybe it has been a couple of years (and by a couple, I mean 5-7 🙂 ) since you last finished a book. If that is you, here are some tips to increase your own love of reading:
Join a book club
It wasn’t until about two years ago that I had ever even considered joining a book club. It sounded a little hoity-toity to me. But a friend asked if I would join, and I said yes. Guess what, I LOVED it. It forced me to read books I never would have picked up otherwise, and made me accountable to finish a book. And a little evening adult conversation with a group of ladies was always the icing on the cake to a good read.
Pick up a book you read and loved in high school
Was there a book you enjoyed reading in high school? Or maybe even younger (Harry Potter, anyone??) What was a book that you loved growing up? Start loving books by re-acquainting yourself with an old flame.
Start with something small and short.
If you are not in the habit of reading, you can get quickly overwhelmed. So start with something short and sweet. Grab a quick memoir or short novel. And commit to reading just three pages a night.
Try an audiobook
If you still can’t seem to find the time or energy to grab a book, then start with audio. You can get free audiobooks from your library and listen to them while you are washing dishes, folding laundry, on a walk, or driving.
Wait! You don’t have time to read???
Between laundry, feeding your kids, scraping dried jelly off your tile floor… if you feel like you need more time in the day, then friend, let’s make that time. Create a space where you can do things that you WANT to do so that you will be able to fully pour into your little ones…
If you are serious about wanting to create a reading culture at home, then you have to make time for reading yourself.
Why It Is Important To Create A Reading Culture At Home
We don’t want little readers so that we will look like “the good mom” at our weekly playdate. There are some real, life-changing reasons you should want your kids to have an appreciation and interest in books:
Reading opens up a world that your child may not be exposed to otherwise.
While we would love to expose our children to all sorts of cultures, experiences, people, and inventions, it is just not always feasible. Books give your children opportunities to see and experience those things that they would not otherwise. It opens their eyes to a world bigger than themselves.
Reading enhances a child’s literacy, numeracy, and technology skills in adulthood.
And what parent doesn’t want that?! This study found that homes with 80 or more books increased these skills. Literacy and numeracy shouldn’t be left for teachers in schools to teach…learning starts at home.
Reading and storytelling build imaginative and creative skills.
As children read stories, they will start to form their own little narratives in their minds. Books offer an opportunity for our kids to imagine and piece together scenes on their own.
Reading increases communication skills
Not only in the general sense but also (and more importantly) it increases the opportunity for communication between you and your child. Reading with your kiddo gives them a quiet, safe space to open up with you. To provide that opportunity for them — read a book together!
Practical Tips To Create A Reading Culture At Home
Not all of us have kiddos who came out of the womb with a love of reading. No fear my friend, there are some real, practical things you can be doing and practicing at home to help your little one fall in love with stories.
Read out loud every day.
Make a habit of reading out loud to your children. This could be during their mid-morning snack, right before nap, after nap-time, or right before bed. Even if it is just for five minutes, making this a habit.
To create a reading culture, have books out and easily accessible.
Bookshelves, baskets of books, books on tables, etc. Have books in every room, easy for your little ones to grab on their own. Books that are easily torn can be put above reach, but visible. Let them see their own books, but have your books around the house for them to see as well.
When your child asks to watch something, suggest reading instead.
Books contain stories, just like shows and movies do. To build the habit of suggesting a book over a show.
Show them that you are excited about their books.
Get animated about the books your little ones love to read. Use your voice to show enthusiasm and interest while reading the stories out loud.
Visit the library and go to story-time to help foster your reading culture at home.
Not only is it a great social outing for you and your kiddo, but it is also a great way to introduce your child to a plethora of books that you may not know about. And it’s good for our littles ones to see other adults – not just mom and dad – and other kiddos rallying around storytelling. Let them check out books, and let them see you checking out books. Sit on the floor of the library and flip through pages together.
Create activities based on stories in books.
My 3 year old loves to do this. We act out Frog and Toad stories while we are on a walk; we share our pretend ice-cream as Elephant and Piggie do, and we run around the house hiding from dinosaurs (that he learned about from The Dinosaur Dig). The stories in books don’t have to end when the last page is closed…to create a reading culture at home, keep the narrative going during the day.
Keep books in your car and/or in your bag.
Whether you are on a road trip, taking a walk, or riding the bus – bring books along with you. Tell stories and read out loud whenever you can.
7 Tips To Get Your Toddler Interested In Books
You can put all of your energy into reading out loud 15 times a day, but if your little one is not sitting with you, enjoying himself alongside you, the effort is muted. For those of you who have a toddler who is just NOT interested in reading, these 7 tips to get your toddler interested in books are for you:
- Build A DIY Front Facing Bookshelf. I am obsessed with these. When kids can see the covers of books, they are going to be more likely to pull them off the shelf and engage with them. This has changed my kid’s relationship with books, and I bet it will for your kids, too!
- Use books as a “find the_______” activity. It took my younger one a little longer to fall in love with books than it did my older son. I would struggle to get him to sit still and be interested in the Little Excavator — then, one morning, I noticed the little dog hidden in corners and behind construction equipment on many of the pages. My little man loves himself a dog, so I started pointing the puppy out and asking him to find the dog on each page. Guess what his favorite book is now? 🙂
- Start short and consistent. If your little one won’t sit still for long, start with one page of a board book. Then, after a couple of times, go to two or three pages. Start short, but be CONSISTENT.
- Read in creative places. While being cuddled up on the couch with a book is hard to beat, if your kiddo has a hard time sitting still try mixing up your reading spot. Some ideas:
- Out on a trail or in the woods
- Inside a fort or tent, with a flashlight
- In a hammock or swing
- At the food court at your local mall
- In a bookstore or at the library
- At the breakfast or lunch table, while they are eating
- Let them play while you read. While you may think that your little one is ignoring you while they attempt to squash the ants crawling around your floor, it’s likely they are still paying attention. Ever looked at your husband after your kiddo repeats something you two talked about, in a whisper, two hours ago, and said: “I had no clue he was listening!” Case in point. So try setting up some playdough or pipe cleaners for them to fiddle with while you read them a story.
- Let them see you get enthusiastic about books. Use your voice to bring the characters and scenes to life. Let them feel your excitement about reading with them. And let them see you excited about reading your own books!
- Find books associated with your toddler’s favorite shows. My little man saw the movie Pinocchio and fell in love. So we found a book about Pinocchio and he was smitten. Think of your kiddo’s favorite shows or movies, and find books about those same characters.
My little guy, I mentioned at the beginning? The one that I could not, for the life of me, get to sit with me for more than three seconds and read a book? He LOVES books now. Right when he wakes up, at 10 am after his snack, before nap, when he wakes up from a nap, before bed…that kids loves to sit with me and read. How did that transformation happen? It took starting slow, starting short, and being consistent.
The process to create a reading culture at home takes time and effort. But once it is done, it provides a beautiful space for communication, learning, engagement, and creativity.
So go on, friend. It starts with you. You’ve got this! And your adult children will thank you later 🙂