How to raise a successful reader in 10 easy steps (HA! Well, there are 10 steps, easy or not):
- Find a teacher friend. – Teachers have insider knowledge when it comes to children’s literature. Day after day they see which books children are consistently choosing, which books never get read, and which books get kids talking. This is all information you need. Extra credit for making friends with a homeschooling parent as they are notorious book nerds (I can think of no better compliment).
- Find a good library – By which, I mostly mean find a good librarian. You may have heard that any library is a good library. While this is a fantastic theory, it is sadly not the case. I have discovered there is such a thing as a “bad” library and much worse, a “bad” librarian. You know the one, the one that yells at the kids during story time. Do not even get me started on this new theory that books in the children’s section can be re-placed ANYWHERE in the correct alphabet shelf. For example, if a child takes a Patricia Polacco book of the shelf, it can be replaced anywhere in the “P” section. It goes against everything that is right about being a librarian…but I digress. It is worth the time it takes to find a good library. The one with a sign at the front that says, “Kids program today: Library will be noisier than usual”, where the librarians smile when they read and they talk excitedly about books, where there is order on the shelves of the sizable children’s section and you are able to find that specific book right away because it has a specific place (not that this shelving issue bothers me or anything). I have had the privilege of using two fantastic libraries with my children. I am grateful for thoughtful, caring, and organized librarians who helped instill a love of books and reading into my children. Recently, I was checking out books and over heard a mom asking the librarian for books about camping. The librarian’s eyes lit up and she excitedly gave her a few ideas off the top of her head and then about thirty minutes later she found that mom with a three page print out (What?!) of all the books about camping she had found. This is the kind of library you never leave!
- Have time – It takes time to cultivate an appreciation for reading. It takes time to build the patience to sit and read words in sequential order. It takes time to humbly bolster your vocabulary by looking up unknown words. It takes time to find compelling and engaging stories. It takes the most time to actually read these compelling and engaging stories to your child. Take the time.
- Have no sense of personal space – The best way to raise a successful reader is to build memories of reading together. This means you will have someone on your lap, at your side, or, inexplicably, occasionally, on your shoulders. You will read through fingers in your face, you will read through puffs of hair in your face, you will develop x-ray vision as you read through a whole head in your face telling you, “I can’t see the pictures”. It would seem that the less personal space you have, the greater success you will have raising a reader.
- Teach your child to read – Literally, teach your child to read. Teachers are phenomenal and also extremely over-worked. It is absolutely no fault of their own that they are often unable to give each child the one on one attention they would like to give, but it is a fact of the modern classroom. Children learn to read earlier and with better fluency if they are given that one on one attention. This is an excellent opportunity for you to be the one who gives them that attention. Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons is an excellent resource for this. I have used it with each of my children who are old enough to read and the program has worked each time. It seems counterintuitive and rote in the beginning but stick with it. It works.
- Have time – What should your super power be? The ability to create time.
- Talk to older kids – I have not met a kid yet who is not willing to express their opinion about something they enjoy. Find a kid older than your oldest child and talk to them about books they like, books to avoid, what they are reading right now, which books they have enjoyed the most, etc. This is all information you need.
- Find a good bookstores – Libraries are works of magic, but generally speaking the magic is older. For new releases and obscure books, you need the bookstore. I regularly walk through and take pictures of the displays to help me remember books I want to read to the kids.
- Have an enthusiasm for reading yourself – They watch you read and can’t help but be fascinated by what they are observing (right?). Imitation is the finest form of flattery. And what could be more flattering than your child following in your literary footsteps? Nothing, I tell you. For once, you can be proud of their mimicry of you. Unlike that other time, you know the time…yes, that time…books are so much less embarrassing.
- Did I mention time? – Because mostly what you need is time. Lots and lots of time.
Bonus – It doesn’t hurt if you have access to a blog that has book recommendations right at your finger tips. I wonder where I could find one of those?! (*shameless plug*)