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One of our goals for our kids is that they develop a love for reading and maintain it throughout their entire lives. To that end, here are 10 specific ways we encourage reading in our home:
1. BECOME LIBRARY NERDS
We go to the library almost every week. When the girls were 1 and 3 years old, sometimes we’d go several times a week… new books, toys, puzzles, story time, why not!? One time, Emma even made the calendar 😉
The library books stay in the girls’ shared bedroom throughout the week. They help collect the books & other library items on the library day. (It’s never the same day every week – we just try to go a lot.)
When my oldest was 2, we’d sit on the couch and read ALL the library books during her baby sister’s morning nap.
Currently, the girls love laying all the library books out on the floor, and take turns picking who gets which book at quiet time that day. I also read several of our new books to them after a library trip.
Library tips with 3 kids under 5:
- Have a designated bag and only checkout as much as can fit in the bag!
- Bring an umbrella stroller for the baby… a double if you need it.
- Bring cheerios or pouches or whatever for a snack.
- Start small and say each kid can pick 3 books or something like that. If you check out 50 things the first time you use the library, you will never go back.
- Utilize the hold shelf if there’s something specific you or your kiddos want.
- Let kids help at self-checkout or enforce strict no-messing-around policy at the checkout. (We left without all our books one time when the girls were out of control in the checkout area. That’s all it took to make this the checkout scene we strive for.)
- You choose/ I choose – Currently, I let them pick any 5 books they want, no matter how horrible they are. I also pick 5 or so that are legitimately good children’s books. Because I can only read “Sofia the First Riches to Rags” so many times in one week. And I want them to develop an enjoyment for books that have plot lines and stuff…
2. BOOKS ON CD
We have this little boom box, and the kids love to listen to children’s books on CD. They pick 3-5 new ones each week from the library. The CD ‘dings’ when you’re supposed to turn the page. My older daughter wasn’t really into this until age 4, but my younger daughter who is more introverted and independent liked this activity from age 3.
These are kind of like books on CD… they’re little mp3 players that you can listen to either with headphones or by plugging the Playaway into the CD player with an auxiliary cord. Our library has them for novels, as well as lots of little stories combined. My girls especially love the ones that have familiar stories (i.e. Frog & Toad, Disney stories, Dr. Seuss books, etc…)
4. READ A LOT TO YOUR KIDS
I am not the play-with-your-kids-all-day mom. But if they ask me to read to them, I almost always say ‘yes.’ If I’m in the middle of something that I can’t pause and come back to, I’ll read to them as soon as I’m done.
Sometimes we just read the requested book and get on with the day. Other times, we’ll head outside with a blanket or grab a whole stack and read on my bed.
5. READ A LOT (of grownup books)
I read a lot, especially when I’m pregnant & tired like recently. I read at night after they go to bed, but they see it when they inevitably come out for “one more” of something.
During the day, I’ll sometimes invite them to read near me on the couch – “You read your books, I’ll read mine.”
Sometimes, I just tell them mid-morning, “mom needs some quiet reading time.” It’s usually only 10-15 minutes but their options are playing alone or together in rooms, playing outside while I read outside, or playing quietly by me while I read. This strategy didn’t work when they were 2 and 3 but it works now that they’re 3 and 4.
Your kids adore you and look up to you and copy you! If they see you reading a lot, they’ll pick it up eventually.
6. BOOKS IN BED
We let our kids take books to bed, including library books if they’ve proven trustworthy. (Our middle daughter went through a book ripping phase… no books for her for a while!)
They basically read themselves to sleep. Now that our 4.5 year old is a beginning reader, she especially loves having books in bed. “I can read in my mind, Mom!” she exclaimed.
7. BRING A BOOK EVERYWHERE
I basically always have a book in my purse and pull it out when I have a minute… drive through, oil change, early to preschool pickup, 10 minutes to kill in the airport parking lot, whatever. I got this idea from a friend and I’m surprised how much more I’m able to read in a week just by always bringing a book along. (Like that one time I brought one when I drove myself to the hospital with baby no. 3...)
I also always encourage the girls to bring a book. They often flip through one in the car if we’re running errands, or at the same places I do if we have to wait somewhere.
8. PLAN AHEAD FOR TRIPS
We do a few 500 mile trips a year to visit family, along with at least one other getaway just Ben & me. I try to plan my own reading for the trip a couple weeks in advance so I can request books on hold from the library. (I don’t own a kindle or tablet & we basically never purchase books, and only own a handful… so it’s pretty old school around here.)
I also take the kids to the library right before we leave for a few new books, and books on CD. They actually watch movies for a lot of the drive now, but if I’m feeling particularly ambitious, we rotate between reading + movies. (Side note: here’s how we survived road trips when the kids were too little to watch a movie or 2, or 3.)
9. LOTS OF BOARD BOOKS
While we don’t actually own a ton of books (adult or children’s), we do have a disproportionate amount of board books for little ones. Basically as soon as the baby shows interest, we start reading to them. (Our girls sat for books a lot earlier than our boy.)
Some of our 1-2 year olds’ favorite board books and authors are:
- Sandra Bonyton
- Eric Carle
- Peek-a-who (one of our all time faves!)
- Chicka Chicka Boom Boom
- Dear Zoo
- Wheels on the Bus (or anything other song books)
Note: those are all Amazon links and each book runs $4-5, but you can also find good deals on board books at Marshalls, Homegoods, & TJ Maxx!
10. COLLECTION BOOKS
Our 3 and 4 year olds are obsessed with collection books like these:
They’ve asked for these types of books as gifts in recent years, but we also get them at the library. Some of our girls’ favorite characters/ collection stories are:
- Frog and Toad (pictured)
- Big blue book of beginner books (pictured; we also have the Big Red one, which they don’t seem to like as much)
- Madeline Treasury
- Biscuit Collection
- Disney Collection (side note: that’s an Amazon link and it’s an old storybook that you can buy used for $1.00 + shipping!)
- Winnie the Pooh
Basically, google “collection” alongside any character or book your child loves and it probably exists.
MAKE READING PART OF LIFE
The bottom line is, make reading a part of your everyday life. Read with your kids from when they’re very young. Encourage other adults or big kids to read with them.
And, let it be known that my oldest is 4-and-a-half, so I don’t have that much experience. If all my kids grow up to hate reading, I’ll come back and delete the post 🙂 In the meantime though, these are a few ways we’re helping our kids develop a love for reading… hopefully.