I'm Lindsay Ferrier, a Nashville writer with a passion for family travel, exploring Tennessee, and raising kids without losing my mind in the process. This is where I share my discoveries, along with occasional deep thoughts, pop culture tangents and a sprinkling of snark. Want to get in touch? Use the CONTACT form at the top of the page.
February 26, 2013
When I was a kid, I loved to read.
‘Loved’ really isn’t a strong enough word. I was obsessed with reading. It was all I wanted to do. I carried a book with me everywhere I went, and read whenever I could find a spare moment. I read on the way to school. I read on the bus home from school. I tried to finish my homework each day during school so that I could come home and read uninterrupted until dinner. I read after dinner until my mom made me go to bed. I could not stop reading, and it literally changed my life.
Reading made me a much smarter kid, I’m convinced. It improved my vocabulary and gave me a much wider range of knowledge and understanding of the human experience. Reading also made me a writer, which means that I have reading to thank for my career. How cool is that?!
When I had children, I had two major goals I wanted to accomplish as their mother. I wanted to give them a strong faith foundation and I wanted to inspire in them a love for reading. I believed in my heart that these two things had the capacity to improve their the quality of their lives in a tremendous, life changing way.
I’m in the middle of this grand experiment right now- Punky is eight, Bruiser is a new reader at five- but so far it seems to be working. Punky now walks everywhere with a book held in front of her nose, and reads at almost every waking moment, or plays out stories based on what she’s reading, or writes books of her own. Bruiser is a brand new reader and is right where Punky was at his age (except that he prefers non-fiction books about things like spiders and fungus- FUNGUS!- and spaceships). People see them reading now and ask me how I got them to love it so much, and I decided to share it with you, since there are very specific things I’ve done that seemed to work really well.
First off, I have always read to my children, which as we all know, is a great idea. But once Punky reached kindergarten, I really intensified it. We started reading together for about an hour each day after school. This sounds like a lot of work- and it was- but I had high hopes it would pay off- and it did. I chose a combination of books that she could read along with me and more complex books that I read to her. I always pointed at each word as I read it (which drove me insane, but has paid off). At night, I often read a chapter in a longer book, like the Raggedy Ann stories or the Pooh stories or Charlotte’s Web. Sometimes, I got so sick of reading aloud that I wanted to stab myself, but I knew that the day would eventually come when she’d be reading on her own and would never need me to read to her again. That day has now come. And the days of picture books and cuddle time have passed. And that makes me sad.
When Punky was a new reader (and now with Bruiser), I also found activities online to go along with the books we were reading. Bruiser and I just finished a huge pile of snow and winter books, and continuing the theme, we made lots of snow crafts, winter cookies, and decorated the house with snowflakes. There are LOTS of activity ideas and templates online to coincide with popular children’s books, and they can really enhance the experience for a young reader.
To keep reading time from getting boring, I have done all kinds of things to make it extra special. Sometimes we go to Starbucks and read for an hour with hot chocolate and a cookie. Sometimes, we go to the botanical gardens with a bag of books and a blanket to spread under a tree. Sometimes we go to the local park and sit in our favorite porch swing, reading books together. Any time I can think of a new and different way to incorporate books into our activities, I try to make it happen.
Another part of keeping reading fresh is constantly having new books to enjoy. We go to the library at least once a week to pick up books we’ve reserved in advance and to browse for new ones. We also regularly make trips to the used book store, where we trade for books we haven’t yet read. It’s one of our favorite places.
Last summer, I interviewed a mother who said to me, “Growing up, we were very poor, but my parents always bought me as many books as I could read. And that changed everything.” I loved that idea, and since that time I’ve never felt guilty about lavishing my children with books. We can’t afford to go to Barnes & Noble and buy out the store, but we’ve made quite a dent at the used bookstore. If all of those books are read, it’s money well spent in my opinion. Both children have bookshelves overflowing with books, and looking at all of them is a regular pastime for them.
The bottom line is that I wanted reading to become an integral part of my children’s lives. I also wanted to make reading so much fun that it always seemed like a special treat. That’s been my reasoning behind all of these plans. I worried when Punky was small and I was putting so much effort into it that it would all be for nothing– but now that she’s a bookworm, I’m encouraged to keep doing these things with Bruiser.
Don’t be fooled- All this effort put into reading means other things have fallen by the wayside. My kids definitely don’t do as many after school activities as some of their friends. I’ve also let homework go undone LOTS of times, because I felt like the reading we were doing together was better for them than additional worksheets (don’t hate me, teachers!!!).
But if you have children, and if reading is as important to you as it has been to me, maybe you can use some of these ideas as inspiration.
Got more tips? Share them in the comments. I’m always looking for more!
Image vis Brandi Jordan/Flickr