Our culture is visually saturated and we are doing are best to raise some bookworms in the midst of this. It is so much easier to put in a DVD to quiet things down. Sometimes this is exactly what we do. But for the most part, we try to encourage the kids to wind down by "resting and reading time". This is usually an hour in midafternoon. They have found this to be the highlight of the day. It's a rare chance to be still and let the imagination soar or the mind be engaged or the spirit be renewed.
Here are some intentional steps we have taken to foster our childrens' hunger for reading even from a young age.
1. Provide low, accessible bookshelves with a wide variety of children's books. Amazing books can be found at garage sales for pennies. I used to get upset when the books were all over the floor, but then realized that love of reading and tidiness aren't even comparable. We just pick them up together at another time.
2. Go to the library often and ask the child what he/she would like to learn about. I'm often surprised by the answers I get and more surprised about their excitement to see a whole shelf of books on the topic.
3. Read exciting chapter books with an understandable plot. A book like this may take a while to get through, but it creates a thirst for more and the sense of accomplishment that comes from finishing a longer book.
4. Read with an accent. Sean has a English/Scottish/Irish accent that comes out ever so often and really engages the children. Kermit the frog also makes an appearance over the kitchen's half wall for some reading after dinner:)
5. Invest in a few quality picture books. Usborne books has some large, well illustrated and captioned books on history and science. The younger kids and beginning readers can spend a good hour looking through these and studying the pictures. These books are made for little hands and can withstand quite a bit of use.
6. When watching TV or a DVD turn on closed captioning. Seeing the words and hearing them at the same time is good for the brain and an easy way for our struggling readers to get some practice without knowing it.
6. Don't avoid older books or those with a deep vocabulary. Our favorites are Lamplighter books, quality moral literature from the 1700-early 1900s. These have been edited well and really are easy for an adult to read aloud. Hearing these more difficult words will hopefully allow the children to not be overwhelmed by these types of books in the future.
7. Read chapters of the Bible aloud and encourage the children to read it to one another. Modeling the reading of God's word in larger portions is a good reminder to us all that Scripture is a whole book, not just a collection of stories and antidotes. This really is the only book we need and God's gift to us.
I have to admit that Sean is much more consistent at bringing books to center stage in our house. I do implement "resting and reading time" mostly for my own sanity. I make regular trips to the library shushing seven children and sporting a laundry basket in a double stroller. He is the one who is intentional about reading to the children individually or as a family, which is much appreciated. I guess I'll have my turn someday when I have grandchildren.
What are some of your favorite ways to bring literature into your family's life? Better yet, what are some of your family's favorite books?